It’s a fact of life: we all have an expiration date. Death is a topic that many people would rather avoid thinking about, but it’s crucial to start preparing for the legacy that you will leave behind.
When considering estate planning, we often think of our homes, savings, retirement funds, and life insurance policies. But have you considered what happens to your digital assets when you die? Smart Business Online recently highlighted some of the steps in digital estate planning that you should implement to ensure you are protecting yourself and your loved ones.
WHAT ARE DIGITAL ASSETS & WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT?
Anything of value that you handle online is considered a digital asset. Like your great grandma’s quilt that was handed down to you, some digital items are simply sentimental, while others, such as financial site logins, could be critical to your family after you’re gone.
It’s a new era, and the internet has likely started to be or already is the means of documenting your life experiences. This digital reality can include social media profiles and files stored on cloud servers and computers, such as photographs, emails, music, videos, messages, and documents.
And it’s not just our personal adventures that have gone digital—paper is on the way out and a great deal of financial information is now accessible only online. That includes your online bank and investment accounts, in addition to money transferring sites like PayPal.
Some online businesses are starting to take notice of the importance of passing on information—Facebook now allows you to assign a person to be the beneficiary of your account should you pass. But because this is the exception rather than the rule, you’ll need to make your own plan for passing on digital assets and access to online accounts, both financial and personal. You don’t want your digital property to end up out of reach or in the wrong hands, so it’s crucial to make a plan now.
ESTATE PLANNING IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL AGE
Many states still do not recognize online information as property, so it’s paramount that you work with a professional to navigate the legal details of your digital legacy. As an attorney experienced in modern estate planning, I am familiar with the unique needs of the technological age. Including digital assets in your will and trust is still a relatively new thing and there are kinks to be worked out, but like anything else in your endowment, it can and needs to be planned for.
You can start by creating an inventory of your online accounts, documenting usernames and passwords for each one in a very secure place, but you’ll need help with the next steps. There are many unknowns when including this type of property in your will and trust, so digital estate planning is best accomplished working with a lawyer experienced in this area.
Here at Craig Associates, we know that estate planning is not one-size-fits-all. Our team of Asheville estate planning lawyers will work with you throughout the course of your life to create dynamic estate plans that move and evolve along with your life, including your digital assets.
If you’re in the Asheville area and are curious to learn more or get started on your estate planning, contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.