If you have already taken the time to develop an estate plan, then congratulations, you are ahead of the game. By creating an estate plan, you have taken steps to reduce any stress regarding the inheritance of your finances, home and any other property. You may have even taken responsibility to execute powers of attorney to attend to possible health or financial matters. But have you addressed your digital assets in estate planning? Before you can address digital assets in your estate plan, you may be wondering what they are.
The term “digital assets” is way to explain your life online. This could encompass your social media presence, online photos, digital currency, your blog, financial accounts or websites you oversee that produce income. Once you are gone, would there be anybody who can access any of these? Would your family or friends know that these even exist in the digital world?
The law is clear for paper documents and other property after you die. But it is not so easy when assets are of a digital nature. Digital information may be controlled by the companies who are storing it. Once you are gone, without a plan in place, your heirs will most likely find it very difficult to access these assets and may have to pursue legal action to gain access.
To bypass the confusion and difficulty in getting your digital assets accessed, you should plan to have them transferred to the people you trust to have them.
Providing loved ones’ access to digital assets
Your loved ones may face legal or other practical issues when it comes to accessing your digital assets, they can include:
- Not knowing what digital assets of yours exist
- Do not know passwords to access information
- The data may be encrypted
- It may be against the law to access unauthorized information
- Data privacy laws
Obviously, some of these things are easy to solve, for example a notebook that contains all your passwords and online information. However, this may only take care of some but not all your digital assets.
From a legal perspective, you should speak to an estate planning attorney to create language to explicitly provide heirs the ability to access your digital assets. You will want to use language that authorizes the people you identify to have the ability to access your information on your behalf.
If you have already take the steps to set-up your estate planning, you should consider adding your digital assets the same way you have already done for your other property. You can think of digital assets the same as a book of old photos, letters or other mementos. By planning ahead of time, you will be preserving part of your legacy which just happens to be in digital form.