Digital access dominates many areas of our daily lives. From the way people manage money to the way we stay connected with friends and family. And, as more of our daily tasks turn digital, the face of estate planning is changing as well.
What is a digital asset?
There is no universal definition for a “digital asset" but broadly defined, it refers to any record that is stored in digital forms. These can be emails, bank accounts, documents and images, as well as audio or video files.
Understanding your estate in the digital age
In general, an estate can be defined as the property you own or that you have a legal interest in.
Traditionally, an estate can include real estate, personal belongings, securities and other financial assets and liabilities. In administering an estate after someone passes away, a documented will is the guiding legal document that outlines how property and possessions should be distributed, according to a person's wishes.
Digital property should also be included in your will and estate plans to ensure peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
Here are nine things to consider when getting your digital affairs in order:
- Take an inventory of your digital assets
- Identify the digital assets you want to be transferred to your loved ones
- Think about how you want the full scope of your assets to be distributed
- Back up digital assets onto a hard drive. Most cloud services terminate access at death
- Stay up to date with technology. New options and terms of service may become available in the future
- Consult with qualified estate, tax and legal advisors to make sure your circumstances are fully accounted for
- Maintain an open dialogue with your executor and family members
- Document usernames and passwords and ensure your digital assets can be found, secured and transferred to the right beneficiary
- List out your digital legacy in writing
Planning for the management of your digital legacy can be done in the same way as planning for your physical estate.
Taking control of your digital footprint now can help ensure your legacy—both online and offline—lives on.
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