Your invisible estate – planning for digital assets

An emerging area of property that you should give thought to is “digital assets.”  Digital assets can include traditional assets that you access via electronic means, such as your bank and other financial accounts and more specifically, your user names, passwords and security questions.  But digital assets also include licenses you own to use software, programs you have developed, e-mail accounts, picture and video storage sites, social networking sites, domain names, games and related sites, backup storage, and your personal and work computers, hardware and software.

If you have significant digital assets, the wisest course may be to place ownership of them in a trust specially created to hold digital assets.  If your digital assets are of the more typical form, however, a separate paper document listing all the pertinent information may be the easiest and most expeditious means of protecting and passing those assets to your beneficiaries.

This listing should contain all of your on-line accounts, usernames, passwords security questions and answers.  It should also indicate whether particular accounts have monetary value, and whether accounts should be closed or deleted at your death or disability or passed to others.  The listing can them be stored with your will and other valuable papers or placed on a computer, removable drive or disk or in a “cloud” with remote access.

Once you have prepared this list it is vital to keep it current.  Each new account or change to an account should be noted on the list.  If you store your list offsite, you may keep a copy that you update close at hand and periodically replace the stored list with the updated information.  As our world becomes increasingly “online” and “electronic” these digital assets will play a bigger and bigger part in your estate plan.

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