In today’s modern age, estate planning goes beyond deciding who will inherit your property and receive precious family heirlooms. The worry that many people have today regards “digital assets.” Digital assets are new to the legal world and laws concerning what should be done with them after a person’s death are still in the process of being made. When it comes to your digital assets, it is important to plan ahead of time so that they are dealt with according to your wishes.
What are Digital Assets?
Digital assets is a much broader term than you might think at first. They include all of your digital files and online accounts that you use on your computer, tablet, phone, and other digital devices. As you go over the list below, think of all of your digital assets and which of the following apply to you.
- email accounts
- social media accounts
- marketplace accounts (i.e. Amazon, Ebay, Etsy)
- interest-specific chatrooms or boards
- digital photos
- books, music, and videos – storage or streaming (i.e. Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, etc.)
- file sharing and storage (i.e. Google Docs)
- online financial, medical, insurance, and utility accounts
- gaming accounts
- online dating accounts
- blogs and websites
- information, files, or programs on your phone, tablet, or computer
- loyalty program benefits
Once you have thought over the digital assets you are in possession of, make a list of all of them. This will make it easier for you to go back when you start planning what you want to do with your digital assets.
Can You Pass Digital Assets Through Your Will?
Generally, assets that are transferable can be included in your estate after you die. This includes anything that is worth money as well as items that contain sentimental value. You can use your will to determine who these will be passed on to.
Such items include funds in PayPal, money owed to you by online stores like Amazon or Etsy, and digital music or photos that you own. In addition, some digital assets that you have licensed are transferable at death, but that depends on the terms of the licensing agreement.
Most of your digital assets do not pass on through your will at death. This is because you are not licensed to use certain sites and terms of agreement limit your rights. Examples of digital assets that you cannot pass on through your will include your email, social media accounts, subscriptions, and apps on your phone or tablet.
Make a Plan for Your Digital Assets
Even if you are not able to pass on all your digital assets through your will, there are still ways that you can plan for what happens to them after your die. Begin by making a list of all your accounts and files, including usernames and passwords where needed. Write specific instructions regarding what you wish to happen to these digital assets. These instructions might be to give your digital photos to a brother, post a special message to a social media account, or delete all accounts from the internet. Include all this information in a letter to your executor. Keep this letter with your will and other estate planning documents.
While some people may want to share their digital assets with their family members, others might prefer to protect their privacy when it comes to these assets. Such people should certainly not leave a letter detailing their login information. Rather, they should seek help from an attorney to make sure that their executor is not able to access these accounts.At JacksonWhite, we respect your privacy and are willing to help maintain it.
Call our Estate team at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.