As the whole world is going digital, most of us would have accumulated a worthy collection of digital documents, photos, music, movies, e-books and even cryptocurrencies on laptops and mobile devices. These electronic assets have a financial and personal value equivalent to your physical assets. They must form a vital part of your estate and estate planning.
What are digital assets?
Although the constitution of digital assets fluctuates with innovation in technology, currently the following items fall into the category of digital assets:
- Electronic Communication like emails, blogs, and social networking sites
- Financial accounts such as PayPal, Investments, brokerage accounts
- Other digital collections such as music, photos, videos on a permanent or temporary storage device.
- Business accounts, customer databases, personal and confidential information
- e-Books, electronic subscriptions
- Other intellectual property
Steps to Include Digital Assets in your estate plan
Once you decide to include digital assets in your online estate plan, you must first determine if your state has laws allowing the inclusion of digital assets in your plan. This is imperative because each state has varying laws to determine what is included and what is not included in your estate plan. They also determine the format of the digital estate plan and whether it is going to be recorded or witnessed.
In the absence of specific rules, the tips given below can help plan your digital assets estate planning:
Document all your digital assets
Before you even begin to chart out the digital asset plan, you must know what assets are in your possession. For each asset, you must know its location, its contents, estimated value, and user credentials for access. If there are multiple accounts, it makes sense to document the login credentials separately.
Decide how you wish to manage the assets
For each digital asset, you must decide who will take care of your assets and what they will do to protect it. This could be your executor of assets or a family member. Ownership and handling decisions must be clear and specific.
Naming an official executor of digital assets clearly in your estate plan enforces who can or cannot manage your digital assets.
Put your digital asset plan in writing
Like any other important document for posterity, you need to put your digital estate plan in written form. Your wishes must be clearly stated in the document. If you are not able to make your mind how to format your digital estate plan, hire the best estate planning lawyer to help you out.
If you have already drawn up you will, you can add the digital asset plan as a codicil and share the document with your loved ones, lawyer and executor of digital assets.
Estate planning and management rules vary from state to state. For instance, you must search for “Estate planning lawyer Albany” or “Estate Planning agency Albany ” online to get the listed attorneys in Albany .
Benefits of Estate Planning of Digital Assets
Digital online asset planning is relatively a new concept with around half of the states in the U.S. having specific laws for the same. But Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act of 2015 grants fiduciary powers to all digital assets that have been introduced in all states in the U.S.
Some user accounts may also have certain requirements for fiduciary access such as Google’s online tool called Account Manager. This tool allows users to choose the people who may access their digital accounts after their demise.
Since there are strict federal rules and criminal laws concerning the access of digital material, it is a wise decision to chart out a digital asset plan as a step towards extending legal protection for your loved ones. Some examples of these laws are the Stored Communications Act, 18 or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 18. This way, not only your private data can be accessed safely by them without fear of being penalized, you can also thwart attempts of identity thefts and illegal data access.
Online digital estate planning need not be complicated if you have your information updated and documented. Review and update your digital asset plan periodically to include any new digital additions to it and always have a backup on the cloud. Digital asset planning can give you peace of mind and keep your loved ones from any legal hassles in the future.