As society continues to evolve into various digital spaces, more people are curating digital collections to compliment their physical ones. Unfortunately, since they are not tangible assets, they are often overlooked when individuals sit down to draft a comprehensive estate plan.
Digital assets can include a wide range of products from entertainment media such as movies, books and music to social networking sites. The term digital assets can refer to cryptocurrencies, an online store, accumulated credit card rewards, airline miles or other items. Accounting for this property has become a crucial factor in developing an effective estate plan.
How to overcome the main obstacles
Generally, the obstacles related to digital property center on various privacy and criminal law concerns. It is wise to identify these issues and include language in your estate plan that clarifies your wishes, including:
- List your digital assets: From a movie collection on your computer to money left in an online account, it is crucial that these assets are clearly listed in your will. Let your spouse or surviving loved ones understand exactly what the asset is and how to find it. Make sure to include login information or any other notes that might make it helpful to access or transfer the asset.
- Understand whether the asset is transferrable: It is wise to check with the organization behind your asset to find out for sure if you can leave the property to an heir. Some items are non-transferrable, and you might only be leaving a legal battle in your estate planning documents.
- Back up your data: Whether you commonly put data in cloud storage, or you tuck it away safely on your computer hard drive, it is wise to have backups on a family computer, disks or removable storage. This might make it easier for your family members to access account information, passwords or a Kindle collection.
- Provide consent: Finally, you should clearly state in your estate planning documents that your heirs are given full control to access and own these digital assets. You should mention that your surviving loved ones are legally allowed to spend money, change passwords or transfer entertainment media to other computers.
Building a comprehensive estate plan means something different now than it did even 20 years ago. While most people first think about their tangible assets, they must also consider the collections of digital assets they’ve accumulated in the last several years.