The digital age is a rapidly shifting landscape, affecting everything from how we stay connected to our loved ones to how we bank. It’s no surprise that changing technology and lifestyles warrant adjustments to the way we approach estate planning. Even if you don’t invest in cryptocurrencies or NFTs, here are the digital assets you should include in your will and how to make sure they’re dispersed according to your wishes.
What are Your Digital Assets?
It’s easy to overlook digital assets, especially when writing your will, because many of them have more sentimental than monetary value, not to mention they aren’t things you can physically hold or necessarily see every day. Make sure to include intellectual property like patents, domain names, logos or trademarks, and works of authorship. Anything with monetary value should be listed in your will so that it can be accurately reported on estate tax returns.
Don’t forget to include sentimental property and mementos that are stored digitally. Things like photos, videos, and emails are often very meaningful to your loved ones after your passing but can be difficult to access if you haven’t made legal provisions. Digital assets that aren’t named in your will can be subject to probate or lost forever if your successors don’t have the means to access them and the legal rights to do so.
How to Cover Your Bases
Maybe you’d like your children to be able to publish a memoir in the future using your photos and digital journal entries or correspondence, but simply listing your digital assets in your will may not give them the permission you intend. For example, giving your beneficiaries legal access to digitally stored personal emails or photos via your estate may not give them legal permission to access or use that information. Conversely, what about information that you would like deleted when you pass? Many platforms like Google and Facebook include stipulations in their user agreements regarding how your information will be protected and made accessible after your death. If going back through all of your account settings sounds daunting, using the proper language in your estate plan can override any user agreements. Make sure to create a comprehensive list of what to delete and what to preserve, and assign a trustee or executor to fulfill your wishes.
Make Sure It’s Accessible
One of the most important ways to care for your family after your passing is to make sure your loved ones have the information they need in order to access your digital assets. Keep a list of your accounts, usernames, and passwords, along with a description of where to find digitally stored sentimental or monetarily valuable assets. Store this information, along with your estate information and financial asset details, in a secure location, like a lockbox, and don't forget to let your executor know where and how to get to it.
One of the greatest gifts you can leave to your family is a smooth transition. Planning ahead can help your family avoid lengthy legal proceedings during an emotionally difficult time, and making sure they can access meaningful mementos like photos or your life’s work is a beautiful way to leave a legacy of love.