Link spent most of every day on some kind of electronic device – paying bills, emailing friends and business associates, and listening to music. However, Link never paused to think about what would happen to his digital assets after he was gone. Would he allow his wife, Dottie, to take over his social media accounts? Would she be able to locate and access his financial accounts? Surprisingly, he learned that he could take some action through his estate planning.
The 411 on Digital Assets
As we increasingly rely on the Internet, it’s important to understand a little more about digital assets. Let’s start with a definition:
“A digital asset is any text or media that is formatted into a binary source and includes the right to use it; digital files that do not include this right are not considered digital assets.”
For the average person, digital assets might include:
Photos, websites, email, social media accounts, financial accounts, software, databases, documents, e-books, music collections, subscriptions, memberships, cryptocurrency, and more.
Some people say that nothing ever dies on the Internet. In fact, digital assets may continue for long after you are gone. The problem is that your heirs may be unable to access them unless you include them in your estate planning.
Your Personal Representative’s Duties…and Your Legacy
In your Will, you will name someone to handle your estate. Previously called an executor, this person is now often referred to as a personal representative. Your personal representative has some serious duties to perform:
- Starting the estate administration by either proving up the decedent’s Will or asking to be appointed personal representative.
- Gathering and protecting estate assets.
- Identifying and locating heirs.
- Paying valid claims against the estate.
- Distributing estate assets to heirs and closing the estate.
Your personal representative may be unable to find or access valuable estate assets because they exist online. This may delay the probate of your estate and increase costs. Also, some assets may have high sentimental value to your family, but they have to be able to find them. Finally, you may prefer that some digital assets are not to be accessed after your death.
You Can Include Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
As you update your estate plan, or prepare a new one, discuss your digital assets with your attorney. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help.
Call Bruce Adams. He has the skills and experience to help with your estate planning concerns. Please contact us at 256-237-3339 to set up an appointment or use the convenient Contact form on our website. Our office is located in Anniston, Alabama, but we assist clients in surrounding Calhoun, Cleburne, Etowah, and St. Clair Counties.