When most of my clients think of Estate Planning, they think of dividing up traditional type assets such as cash, stocks, bonds, jewelry, cars, family heirlooms, etc. Although this has been the norm for the most part, in today’s never ending pursuit of advancing technology, estate planning attorneys and their clients have a another very important classification of assets to consider: digital assets.
Since reading an article last year about the rightful ownership of songs on an iTunes account, I have done some research on this growing estate planning issue of digital assets. There are seemingly endless amounts of digital assets that need to be accounted for, and it is a great idea to keep a current list to include in a well thought out estate plan.
What are digital assets that need to be considered in planning for your estate? What about family photo albums that may have been converted to digital media, what about an extensive digital music collection, what about novel ideas with respect to inventions/writings/music that you have created. These are just a few items that you should consider while making an estate plan.
Although it is important that the aforementioned assets are accounted for in your plan, it is perhaps more important that the access to these items is apparent. If trustees and personal representatives do not have access these types of media, i.e. passwords to computers, the assets cannot be distributed. The passwords are also important for executors of estates to gain timely access to bank accounts, brokerage accounts, email accounts and social media accounts. Without passwords, access to these types of accounts may result in long court battles.
The creation and implementation of federal and state laws with respect to digital assets are relatively new and can be quite confusing. If you have not accounted for your ownership of digital assets in your estate plan or need help organizing those assets for the future, reach out to an expert estate planning attorney. A digital asset protection trust may be an option for you.