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Digital Assets

Handling Digital Assets

When doing estate planning it is important to consider your digital assets and how your personal representatives will have access to them. When preparing a Will or Power of Attorney, it is important to define the term “Digital Assets.” “Digital Assets” can include files stored on digital devices, including but not limited to, desktops, laptops, tablets, peripherals, storage devices, mobile telephones, smart phones and any similar digital device which currently exists or may exist as technology develops. The term “Digital Assets” can also include emails received, email accounts, digital music, digital photographs, digital videos, social network accounts, financial accounts, domain registrations, tax preparation service accounts, online stores and similar digital items which currently exist or may exist as technology develops.

It is important to inventory your digital estate. That is, make a list of all of your online accounts, including email, financial accounts, Facebook and anywhere else you conduct business online. You should include your username and password for each account and also include access information for digital devices including smart phones, computers and notebooks. Once your digital estate is inventoried, the list should be placed in a safe place. There are a number of options. You can list them on paper, although someone may discover it and gain access. You can keep it in a safe deposit box or give it to your attorney to hold in his/her file. You can keep the list online by using an online service such as Legacy Locker, Asset Lock, Cyrus Legacy, Secure Safe or a similar service. Be sure to update your digital estate inventory from time to time so that new accounts and services are included, or when you purchase new devices or change your user names and passwords.

Once your digital information is inventoried, your personal representatives, i.e. the Agent named in your Power of Attorney and the Executor named in your Will, should have access to it at the appropriate time. They will need to know how to find what you have inventoried when they need access to this information. You may want to simply give them access to one of the services where you have inventoried your digital information with a username and password.

Finally, in your Will and Power of Attorney it is important to include language that authorizes your Agent and Executor to deal with your online accounts. In this regard, it is a good idea to review your current Power of Attorney and Will to determine that such authorization is included in these documents.

~ Mark S. Harris

Categories: General, Estate Planning