Living in a Digital World Means We Have Digital Assets
Digital assets are any file on your computer in a storage drive or website and any online account or membership (John Conner, Texas Tech University School of Law). If you have ever saved a file onto a computer, made an online account, or downloaded a song from iTunes, then you have a digital asset. Have you ever thought about what happens to these digital assets when you die?
Typically these assets are forgotten when doing your estate planning; however, these assets can hold both sentimental and monetary value and should be part of a thorough plan. Let’s look at the reasons why you should include digital assets in your estate planning:
1. If you own a business, you likely have important business materials saved on computers or online. Employee payroll accounts, online bank accounts, websites, business email, and important saved documents are all digital assets that can be crucial to running your business. It’s so important to make sure that this is included in your estate plan so that the right person will have access at the right time.
2. If you have an online bank account, such as PayPal, that is a digital asset. Planning for your digital assets means the money in those accounts will be distributed correctly after your death.
3. If you have an email account. Online bills often are sent only through email, and without giving a trusted person access to that account, your estate executor may encounter difficulty learning about and taking care of those bills. Emails may also contain sensitive information that needs to be deleted, or messages that should be distributed to friends and family. Ensure that these bills can be accessed and emails can be taken care of by including this in your estate plan.
4. If you have a blog, after your death you may wish for it to be closed, left open, or even for some last words to be posted for your readers and online friends. If you have a plan for your digital assets, your wishes can be carried out.
5. If you store pictures and videos online, those accounts can hold great sentimental value for your family and friends. Wouldn’t you like to know that these will be passed on after your death?
6. If you have an online shopping account. If you have a plan for your digital assets, your eBay, Amazon, or other online shopping account will be closed after your passing.
7. If you download music or movies off the internet. Include your iTunes and other downloaded files into your estate planning so that these will be accounted for after your death. Although the laws currently only offer you a license to listen to the music during your lifetime your collection could still hold significant value.
8. If you own a domain name. If you have a plan for your digital assets, you can choose for your domain name to be sold or passed on after your death. While many domain names have value only to the original owner, some domain names hold significant value that shouldn’t be overlooked.
9. If you store documents or other files on a computer. Certain documents or typed journals may have sentimental value. Including digital assets in your estate plan can ensure that these files and documents are given to your family and friends after your passing.
10. If you have a social networking account. These accounts can hold large amounts of private information which can be used for identity theft. If you have a plan for your digital assets, your online friends can be notified of your death, and your account can be closed or memorized so your grieving family doesn’t have to deal with your identity being stolen.
Interested in finding out how to protect your digital assets in order to protect what matters to you? Please contact my office at:
Linda M. Strohschein