Even though estate plans have historically focused on tangible assets like a home, classic cars or family heirlooms, a significant portion of modern lives are being lived online. While you can’t necessarily hold a digital avatar, these online assets can be just as valuable as real property.
Digital assets can include a broad array of items from cryptocurrencies and airline miles to a virtual storefront and entertainment media collection. In the last two decades, individuals have spent countless time, effort and money in building collections and cash-equivalents that live in a digital environment. It is crucial that these items be listed in your estate plan right alongside the grandfather clock you want to pass down to your favorite nephew.
Here are four tips to consider when drafting your will, trust and other documents:
- Make a comprehensive list: The first step is to make a list of your digital assets and begin penciling in notes such as where the asset is located, urls, passwords and any security questions that might come up upon login. Store this list in a secure location for easy access.
- Research where necessary: You’ll notice that many organizations aren’t necessarily selling a digital item, but the license to use the item. For example, some movies, music and games might include this fine print in their end-user agreement. If you’re not sure if you actually own the product, look into it before listing it in your estate plan. If the asset is non-transferrable, you might only be leaving your heir a legal headache.
- Back up and verify any cloud storage: While cloud storage might be convenient for you, it might present problems for your heirs and surviving loved ones. You could back that data up on a local computer or removable storage device for simple access.
- Write out your legal consent: It is wise to take the time to clearly spell out that you are giving your heirs legal consent to own your asset, operate your store or update your social media pages. This can also include a note about changing passwords or changing various levels of access.
These can be complex changes, so they are best tackled early. If assets change, you can always revise your estate plan to reflect the new status. Do not hesitate to make your wishes known regarding both the tangible and intangible assets you’ve accumulated during your life.