With the digital age upon us, many of us are utilizing our computers and the Internet to manage our personal, financial, and business lives. The expanding use of digital accounts such as e-mail, iTunes, Facebook and online banking creates new and unique issues for planning how to deal with these digital assets. A digital asset is essentially defined as electronic information stored on a computer or computer-related technology.
A critical planning issue for digital assets is gaining access to the online account storing the asset after incapacity or death. For instance, do you have digital photographs, books, or music you wish to divide between certain beneficiaries in your will or trust? If so, then you need to ensure that you plan for others to access your online accounts to gather these digital assets for distribution to your intended beneficiaries. Equally important is the fact that our digital assets may be stored on personal property, such as a computer, which we would like to go to a specific person after death. If the digital asset on the computer, such as your iTunes music or electronic books, are to be given separate and apart from the computer, then we have to ensure that your fiduciary distributes the digital asset prior to giving the computer to your intended beneficiary.
Moreover, paperless billing/account statements are becoming the new norm in this digital age. Accordingly, it is important you make sure your selected fiduciaries can obtain access to your accounts after your incapacity or death to be able to find your assets and administer your estate. Without granting the proper access authority to your digital accounts (through a financial power of attorney, will, or trust), your fiduciaries could be subject to criminal offenses for computer hacking pursuant to federal and state statutes.
Oftentimes in our busy digital lives, we neglect to consider how our Internet accounts and digital assets within these accounts will be handled when we die. Do you want your Facebook account to be closed or to be memorialized? Do you regularly sell or buy items on Ebay? You can decide how you would like these accounts handled through your estate plan. We can help you in planning for the administration and distribution of your digital assets. In particular, we can plan for how to find your digital assets as well as how to access, protect, and transfer these assets and accounts after death.
As part of our estate planning documents, we provide a comprehensive digital asset inventory ensuring that these intangible properties are addressed within your estate plan. Please contact us if you would like to discuss digital assets within your estate plan.