When most people talk about estate planning, they concern themselves mostly with money or physical assets: their homes, their cars, their bank accounts and family heirlooms. Without realizing it, they may be excluding an entire class of assets. Digital assets will also need to be accounted for and distributed in an estate plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind when accounting for your digital assets in your estate plan:
- Be aware of all of your digital assets
- The term “digital assets” broadly refers to any important property you own that only exists in a digital format. This includes, but is not limited to: digital currency (e.g.-Bitcoin), websites, documents, music, photographs, email accounts, art projects, and any copyrighted, trademarked, or patented material. It can be difficult to keep track of everything, especially since many people keep digital files backed up to cloud services. When planning your estate, keeping track of all of these digital assets is essential.
- Keep records that can be accessed by others
- From a security perspective, the safest thing to do with your digital assets is to lock it up in a device that can only be accessed through a password only you know with multiple layers of authentication. In the context of estate planning, that kind of security can create a nightmare for your executor or estate administrator when it’s time to distribute assets to your heirs or beneficiaries. Therefore, don’t be so obsessed with protecting your data that you make it inaccessible to your loved ones when they need it. Make sure someone you trust knows how to access these digital assets or knows where you store your passwords.
- Make sure your account information is up to date
- It is extremely common for people to have their assets locked behind a variety of accounts with different websites and companies. When you pass away, beneficiaries will need to access those websites. They must have your login information readily available. If your account information is inaccurate or out of date, your loved ones may find it nearly impossible to locate or access your digital assets. This access is particularly important to those who are investing in Bitcoin and to store and maintain those digital currency in a digital wallet.
- Keep backups of everything
- Far too many people put all of their eggs in one basket, when it comes to their digital assets. Keeping all of your important data in a single device, or even a small handful of devices, can mean they become permanently lost if those devices are damaged or destroyed. Therefore, you should keep backups of anything important, to protect against the possibility of disaster.
- Decide who you want to get your digital assets
- Finally, just like any other asset, you will need to decide who will get possession of your digital assets. This is not a small decision, as some digital assets can have extraordinary value, especially if they are used as part of a business enterprise. That is why you should make sure to speak to a lawyer with knowledge of estate planning who can advise you on how best to handle your digital assets.
Whether for yourself or for a loved one, estate and elder law planning can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing. The legal professionals at Hobson-Williams, P.C. will advise you on the options available to you, and help you establish a plan that best suits your needs. Call (718) 210-4744 or visit our contact page to speak to one of our attorneys and learn how Hobson-Williams, P.C. can help you gain the peace of mind that comes from being prepared for the future.