News & Insights

Digital Assets: What Your Estate Plan May Be Missing
December 3, 2015
by Marcellus Lebbin

 

South Bend / Mishawaka, IN – For most Americans, it’s hard to go even one day without having some interaction with the digital world. Whether it’s reading an email, saving a document to a flash drive, or making an online payment, we all access a host of digital assets on a daily basis. However, when it comes to estate planning, it’s not unusual to forget these valuable assets.  We forget that our digital lives may live on without us, especially if we haven’t planned for what will happen to each of our digital assets.

Making arrangements for digital assets should mirror the process of making arrangement for physical assets, however, greater complexity may be involved. It’s not uncommon for an individual to have a hard time remembering where an important document is saved, what the password is to his or her online banking account, or where the flash drive with last year’s tax documents is. Now, imagine how difficult it would be for someone else to locate this important information in the event of your incapacity or death. By creating a digital estate plan, you can better prepare your survivors to handle your digital assets after your passing.

To begin with, it’s important to inventory all of your digital assets.  Digital assets can include computer hardware, such as computers, external hard drives, flash drives, tablets, smartphone, and digital cameras; and online accounts, such as email, social media accounts, shopping accounts, online storage, websites, online banking, and online payment accounts. Your list should include the location of the asset, and the username and password needed to access the information. It should also include directions on what should be done with each asset.

You then want to give a chosen representative directions on how to access this list in the event of your incapacity or death. Because this digital assets inventory list includes very sensitive information, it’s important to store the information in a secure place. One option is to formalize your digital estate plan by making it a part of your will or a codicil to will. This gives you the opportunity to name your chosen representative in the will and also specify the location of your digital assets inventory.

However you choose to store your digital assets inventory and directions for access, it’s important to update the information as you open new accounts, purchase new devices, or change usernames and passwords.

By taking the time now to develop a digital estate plan–which can be done in connection with updating your current estate plan–it will make things easier for your survivors and increase the likelihood that your wishes are followed. At May Oberfell Lorber, our attorneys have experience working with clients to develop a personal estate plan. We’d be happy to assist you in developing a plan tailored to your specific digital assets.

 

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