Conventional estate planning addresses a wide variety of assets, including real and personal property as well as tangible and intangible assets. In today’s electronic age, however, there is yet another type of asset that needs to be included in your estate plan – digital assets. In fact, digital assets may make up a significant percentage of your estate assets in the very near future. To ensure that your estate plan covers all of your assets, the Vero Beach estate planning lawyers at Kulas & Crawford explain your digital assets and how they fit into your estate plan.
Our Digital World
In the 21st Century, the world has become digitized for most people. If you stop for a moment and think about it, you will realize just how much of your life is now stored electronically and how many tasks you accomplish electronically. Communication – both business and personal – is likely handled via email, text, or social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Bill paying is probably handled via electronic funds transfer or debit card over the company’s website. Investment accounts can frequently be accessed online and you may even do most of your trading and investing that way as well. If you own a business, your business probably depends on your internet presence to bring in new clients/customers too. In short, the number of digital assets, records, and accounts you have is undoubtedly more than you realized before you stopped to think about it. That may mean you have yet to take the time to incorporate and protect those digital assets into your estate plan.
Incorporating Your Digital Assets into Your Estate Plan
Protecting your digital assets is every bit as important as protecting conventional assets. To do this, you will need to incorporate those assets into your estate plan. The first step in doing that is identifying all your assets. Make a list of all digital assets and/or digital footprints you have, including:
- Computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices
- Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device. For each account, make sure you identify where it is located, your username, and password.
- Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage. For each of these, you will also need to make a note of your username and password.
- Domain names
- Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own
Next, make a separate list of all financial accounts and online bill pay accounts you use. Provide as much information about each as possible, including the website name and address, username and password, and any additional security information your Executor or Agent will need in order to access the account. Examples include:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Trading accounts
- Investment accounts
- Utility payment accounts
- Credit card accounts
- House and vehicle loans
Finally, decide how you want to handle all your digital assets. For assets with value, such as intellectual property, websites, and monetized blogs, you can gift them in your estate plan just as you would a conventional asset; however, the process for transferring ownership may be a little different. Be sure to discuss any additional steps you will need to take with your estate planning attorney. Many of your other assets do not have a tangible value; however, they are “gatekeepers” for valuable assets. Account information relating to your investment accounts, for example, may not be valuable in and of itself, but it will allow someone to access a valuable asset. Consequently, you will also need to decide how to handle all of that information within your estate plan. You can designate a separate “Digital Executor” to go through all your electronic files or you can expect your primary Executor to do so. The important point is to make sure all that information is handed over to someone of your choosing after your death.
Contact Vero Beach Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding digital assets, contact the experienced Vero Beach estate planning lawyers at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.