You might have written a will that outlines who will inherit your personal and real property. However, you might not have considered your digital assets. The professionals at Elder Care Direction can help you to determine how to handle your digital assets so that your loved ones will be able to access them. If you need additional help, we can refer you to a trusted estate planning lawyer.
Including digital assets in your estate plan
Your heirs may not be able to access your digital assets after you die if they are not properly included in your estate plan. This means that videos and photos could be lost. Your social media accounts might also remain online after you have passed. If you do not plan for how to handle your digital assets, your passwords might be lost. If your financial information is stored on password-protected computers, this can create an additional problem for your heirs. It is now common for people to store their financial records online.
Problems with digital access
Your digital property can be passed on to your chosen beneficiaries in the same manner that other types of property can be passed. However, the laws governing digital assets are still evolving, and the practices of companies such as Google and Facebook are also changing. This can present obstacles for others to access your digital information after you die.
If your loved ones do not know your passwords, they may be unable to access your stored information from your smartphone, online accounts, computer, or the cloud. Some passwords may be relatively easy to bypass while others may be nearly impossible. Your digital information may also be encrypted as an added layer of security. If you have encrypted files, the data can be scrambled so that it is nearly impossible for anyone without the proper passcodes to read.
Criminal laws may also be an obstacle. Federal and state laws prohibit unauthorized access to private personal information and computer systems. These laws offer important protections against identity theft and fraud for consumers. However, they are obstacles for your loved ones who need to gain access to your digital information after you die. Similarly, data privacy laws also provide obstacles, and it can be very expensive for your loved ones to go through a court process just to gain access to your digital property.
How to include digital assets in your estate plan
It is relatively simple to include digital assets in your estate plan. Begin by creating a list of your digital assets. Your list should include all of your online accounts and the passwords to each one. It should also include your digital property such as virtual currency and domain names. Keep your list in a location that is secure, and make certain that your family members know where to find it.
Know what you truly own. For example, you might have only purchased a nontransferable license for the use of an asset such as music that you purchase on iTunes. Check the agreements for different vendors to see whether you have purchased an asset or have only purchased a license to it.
You should also back up the information that you have stored in the cloud. Back up any digital assets to a storage device on a regular basis so that they can be accessed by your family members with fewer problems.
In your wills, powers of attorney, and revocable living trusts, provide legal consent for your loved ones to access your digital information. This should include language that gives consent for the providers to share the contents of your communication online to appropriate parties. You should also determine whether you want to give a blanket authorization or if there are some things that you want to remain private.
Talk to the professionals at Elder Care Direction
Digital assets are relatively new, but they should not be left out of your estate plan. To learn more about how to ensure that your loved ones might have access to your digital property, schedule a consultation with Elder Care Direction today by filling out our contact form.