Estate planning used to be relatively simple because the assets involved were relatively straight forward. Money was money. Property was property. Now, however, the very definition of “asset” is changing thanks to our increased dependence on electronic media. As a result, you may need to make changes to your estate plan that address your digital assets. What are digital assets? Although the law has yet to definitively answer that question, some things that may be part of the definition include:
- Social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Websites – personal and business
- Photo sharing accounts
- Computer files and programs
- Online accounts for investment accounts, banking and bills
- Music, movies and video
What happens to all of these assets if you die, or become incapacitated, is the issue. Because state and federal laws have yet to provide a road map for the disposition of digital assets upon the death or an owner, your best bet is to include them in your own estate plan.
To begin with, you need to make complete lists of everything you do electronically. Provide account number, website addresses, user names and passwords. Basically, create a paper trail –- contrary to what you have always been told to do with your online activity. Then decide whom to entrust it to and consult with your estate planning attorney. For now, including your digital assets in your estate plan in this form may suffice; however, be sure to consult with your estate planning attorney as the laws relating to digital assets change and evolve to find out if you need to update your plan.
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