Traditional estate planning is changing. Instead of merely focusing on tangible property, such as real estate, vehicles and personal property, an estate plan may also include digital assets. Digital assets can have significant value and may be managed solely online. However, because virtual assets can be overlooked, they can be lost. Talk with a California estate planning attorney to ensure that your digital assets are protected after your death.
What Is Digital Estate Planning?
Digital estate planning involves organizing your digital property and assets to ensure these assets are included in your estate. Many people assume that digital assets only include financial accounts. However, your digital assets include all online accounts. Examples of digital assets include:
- Online bank accounts
- PayPal and other online financial accounts
- Social media accounts
- Marketplace and e-commerce accounts, such as Amazon, eBay, etc.
- Loyalty program benefits, including credit card points, frequent flyer miles, etc.
- Email accounts
- Ongoing gaming accounts
- Any accounts used to store personal information, including photographs, documents, etc.
- Online accounts for utilities, credit cards, and other debts
The funds held in online accounts are not considered digital assets. The account is a digital asset, but the money held in the account is a liquid asset. It is included in the estate as a tangible asset. Cryptocurrency accounts are an example of a digital asset that holds funds that are included in your estate.
It is essential to create an estate plan that includes your digital assets. The personal representative for your probate estate should control all assets included in your estate for distribution to heirs. However, you also need to appoint a digital executor to manage accounts not passed to heirs through your estate.
What is a Digital Executor?
A digital executor is a person you trust to carry out your wishes regarding your digital assets. This person will have access to all of your online accounts and digital assets. The personal representative for your estate may be your digital executor or you could appoint someone to serve in this role that is different from the person who manages your estate.
Your personal representative will need access to any assets that are included in your estate. Anything of monetary value may be subject to estate taxes and intestate distribution laws.
However, your digital executor is the person you designate to destroy or distribute your digital assets that are not part of your probate estate. Even though a digital executor is not a legally enforceable or binding designation, it can be wise to include this designation in your will, as well as what you desire to happen to your online accounts.
Tips for Digital Estate Planning
Some tips that can help you protect your digital assets include:
- Name a digital executor who understands how to access and manage online accounts.
- Create and routinely update an inventory of logins and passwords for each account to avoid losing assets.
- Ensure your digital executor understands your wishes by discussing your wishes with the person and putting your wishes in writing.
- Keep your inventory and other related items in a secure location that your digital executor can access after your death.
Consulting with an estate planning lawyer is one of the best tips for creating a digital estate plan. An attorney may best understand how each digital account and asset are treated by probate law. Therefore, an attorney can advise you on the best way to handle these assets now and before your death to ensure that your wishes are carried out should something happen to you.
Contact Our California Estate Planning Attorney for More Information
Creating a digital estate plan protects virtual assets. It also protects your online assets from fraud, hacking, or theft. You also make it easier and less stressful for family members by providing them with a detailed inventory and instructions for your digital assets.
Call our office to discuss your estate plan with an experienced California estate planning attorney.