Should Digital Assets be a Part of Your Estate Plan

Estate Planning

What are digital assets? Digital assets are digitally stored content or any online account owned by an individual. They include individual files such as images, downloaded music, your Facebook and other such social media accounts, photos, videos, movies, books, games, personal records of all sorts, and text files. Some digital assets are worth a considerable amount of money. These assets are stored either on a device owned by an individual, or on devices accessed via the Internet ("in the cloud"), often as part of a service offered by a third party. Many digital accounts are subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can often make it difficult or impossible for surviving loved ones to access them, and state and federal privacy laws could apply to those who try to log on to your accounts.

Some of these digital assets are impossible to recreate without further action from you to protect them, but there are things that you can do to reduce the risk that your digital accounts and subscriptions will be lost when you die. You can incorporate specific information pertaining to your digital assets into your estate plan.

Here is a simple guide for protecting your digital assets:

1. Be proactive. Disclose to your estate planning attorney that you have digital assets, even if your attorney does not ask you about your digital assets.

2. Make an inventory of all of your digital assets and revise the list of your accounts, passwords and subscriptions as they change.

3. Put your digital account information in a safe place. There now exist companies that offer secure, digital custodial services for lists like these, or maintain an updated copy in your safety deposit box. Make sure your agent knows where to find the list.

4. Include provisions in your Will or Trust that specifically authorize your personal representative or trustee to deal with your digital assets and online accounts.

Jeffery J. McKenna is a local attorney serving clients in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. He is a shareholder at the law firm of Barney McKenna and Olmstead, P.C. He is a founding member and former President of the Southern Utah Estate Planning Council. If you have questions regarding this article or if you have a topic you wish to have addressed, please call 435 628-1711 or email jmckenna@barney-mckenna.com.