There is a trend in estate planning to include any of your digital assets in your will. But what exactly are digital assets? And how can you protect them in your will?
Digital assets are any content you may have created that are stored in digital form, either on your computer hard drive, cell phone, tablet or other electronic device, or on any website you own or participate in. This includes your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Paypal or bank account, blog, your personal- or business website, digital access for your credit cards, retirement savings, or other financial assets, and any user names or passwords to gain access to those accounts.
It is a federal crime for anyone other than an authorized user to gain unauthorized access to your account. This is great for protecting your digital assets while you are still alive, but what happens after you are gone?
A digital assets clause can be inserted into your will to allow your executor to access these accounts and distribute any actual assets associated with them, as dictated by your last will and testament. It should include a complete inventory of your digital assets, the website addresses to access them, as well as any account names and numbers, user names, passwords, or other relevant information. And it should indicate how you would like those assets to be used, sold, or otherwise disbursed to your next of kin. You can also craft a Digital Power of Attorney that will give your executor broad powers with regards to your digital portfolio.
It’s especially important if you’re a business owner with a business website. If nobody’s authorized to access, remove, use or update the data on the site, it’s useless to your business, and your heirs could lose any assets associated with the site if you don’t take steps to ensure that they will be able to access them.
Some online service providers explicitly forbid anyone other than the authorized user to access this information. This is something most of us agree to when we click on online service agreements, usually without reading them. These agreements can create a problem, which unfortunately current laws do not adequately address, after the user is deceased.
If you have concerns about your digital assets, or any other aspect of your estate plan, give our office a call at 856-227-7888, or contact us at email@example.com.
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The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.