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How to include digital assets in estate planning

Estate planning is often associated with assets like homes, cars, businesses, personal property and bank accounts. It’s less common to hear about how digital assets play a role in estate planning. What could be classified as digital assets, and how would you work that into your estate plan?

A breakdown of ‘digital assets’

Digital assets are increasingly a concern in estate planning as more of our lives shift to the online realm. We are tracking everything online between social media profiles, online banking and our communications. That’s why the definition of a digital asset is so broad; simply, a digital asset is any online record a person owns.

Some examples of digital assets include online rewards programs and a Facebook profile, both of which can be addressed in your estate plan if you so choose. Other digital assets to consider include:

  • Financial accounts — Most transactions and records are now online in some form or another. You need to include these accounts in your estate plans, similar to how you would incorporate traditional bank accounts into your will. The same is true for any investment portfolios or brokerage accounts.
  • Digital collections -— These collections include assets that are more sentimental in value, such as photos, music and videos. There may be certain members of your family or friend group who want access to these collections, so it’s critical to include them.
  • Electronic communications — These could be business-related or not. In either case, it’s important to have a plan in place for what to do with email and other electronic communications. At the very least, you can address these matters so your family can close or preserve social media profiles and control any further communication on your behalf.

If you don’t include these assets in your plan, it makes them vulnerable to fraud or misplacement among your beneficiaries. It’s even possible that the courts won’t allow your relatives to access digital assets without explicit permission.

To make sure your financial accounts are secure and your collections are remembered, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.

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