July 28, 2016
Defining Digital Assets
Digital assets can be loosely defined as any online or electronic records, art, images, emails, creations, files, accounts or subscriptions that are owned by an individual. These assets may be stored on a computer or other electronic device such as a smart phone, a thumb drive or in a cloud.
Considering Your Digital Estate
If you have any kind of online footprint or own any offline digital content, you have a digital estate. It’s just as important to create a legacy and/or estate plan for these digital assets as it is for your tangible assets. It is important that your estate planning documents, such as your Will and Power of Attorney document, specifically include digital assets to determine:
• What happens to your social media accounts upon death. Will they be maintained by a specific person, or would you prefer them to be deleted and closed? We’ve heard stories of parents wanting to access the photos stored on their deceased child’s Facebook or Instagram accounts but not being allowed to retrieve them. Or of spouses wanting to leave up the page of their deceased spouse as a memorial to that person.
• Who can access and manage your online accounts and subscriptions. Many people are now doing more and more banking online, including paperless statements. Imagine if your spouse passes away and you don’t have access to the login information for your bank and online bills. A digital estate plan will allow you to give an executor or heir access to online accounts that make estate management easier.
• Who will gain access to your purchased digital assets. Many people spend thousands of dollars a year on movies, programs and games that they download. While not all of these assets come with licenses that permit transfer, some do.
• Who will gain possession of your emails and other digital files. Every day a tremendous amount of personal information is shared via email and recorded on digital text files. It’s possible that you don’t want just anyone to have access to this information, which makes it vital to set up a digital estate plan spelling out who has control of its oversight.
Don’t assume that your Agent named in your Power of Attorney or the Executor of your Will automatically has access to your digital assets. Talk with an attorney about updating your documents to include digital assets or developing a digital estate plan to include a list of accounts, passwords, assets and other information.