How should I include my digital assets in my estate plan?

Following some simple steps can help ensure that your digital assets are included in your estate plan.

According to credit reporting bureau Experian, the average internet user has 26 different online accounts and at least five different passwords to access those accounts. People are increasingly conducting more of their lives online through social media sites, mobile banking and video and music streaming services. However, few people stop to think how they should include their online assets into their estate plans.

Broad range of digital assets

You may not realize how many assets you have amassed online. You may have established online access for your banking and investing accounts. You could have a large library of digital music, movies or books, or subscriptions to services that stream media such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Audible, Spotify or Pandora. You may have online businesses that generate extra income for you, or you may have a website, the domain name of which should be catalogued as an asset.

Your online intellectual property should also be included as digital assets. Online writing such as blog posts or creative writing, artwork and photography are all digital assets. Even your social media accounts can be considered assets, as they may hold sentimental value for your friends and family.

Steps for including digital assets in estate plans

If you plan carefully, you can help ensure that your digital assets are protected by your estate plan as surely as your other assets are. Some steps you can take include:

  • Drafting a clause in your will or trust documents that authorizes your executor or personal representative to access and control your digital assets
  • Creating a comprehensive list of all of your digital assets, accounts and passwords to access them, along with a plan for updating the list
  • Finding an appropriate place to store the list of assets and passwords, since you should not include such a list in your will
  • Developing a plan for destroying digital information, if necessary
  • Cataloging and storing digital assets on storage devices such as USB drives
  • Writing out instructions for your executor regarding how you want your digital assets distributed

Consult an attorney

Once you have begun to take stock of your digital assets, you should seek the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney to help you incorporate those assets into your existing estate plans. An experienced estate planning attorney can also review your estate plan with you and update it to make sure that it still meets your needs. If you have questions about digital assets and estate planning, contact a seasoned estate planning attorney.

Keywords: estate planning; trust; will