Do Not Overlook Digital Assets Within Your Estate Plan

Paul FennerEstate Planning

Estate Planning

When it comes to setting up an Estate Plan one often looked at items are digital assets.  What constitutes a digital asset you may ask?  Think about an iTunes, Facebook, or Twitter account, or a website with hundreds or even thousands of followers.  These all constitute digital assets.

As more and more of our lives become digital or even cloud-based, people need to begin to consider how these assets may or may not transfer to one’s heirs.  According to this WSJ article, “The most important thing, estate attorneys say, is to establish procedures for protecting and granting access to passwords and for transferring assets and account ownership. The rules can vary widely depending on the state. While there is nothing in Twitter’s company rules and conditions that says one of its accounts must close if the owner dies,  Apple iTunes says it doesn’t have a policy that allows anyone to will or inherit an iTunes account.”

Christine Benz, Director of Personal Finance at Morningstar, states in her article Do You Have a Plan for Your Digital ‘Estate’?, “the basic idea is to knit these digital assets in with the rest of your estate plan.”   James Lamm, an attorney who coaches other attorneys on the importance and specifics of digital estate planning says, “We need to do the next step in planning.  Who should get the data? And more importantly, are there things we don’t want others to have?”

Benz goes on to note a few keys to getting your digital house in order which includes the following;

  • Take an inventory of your assets
  • Be sure to have a plan to back up those assets
  • Put your plan in writing