Tips for Putting Your Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

Bob Carlson


Last week, we talked about all the key changes regarding digital assets in your estate plan.

Today, I’ll share a way to plan for digital assets, and ensure you’re fully up to speed with your estate.

1. Develop an inventory.

You need a list of all your digital accounts, assets, automatic payment plans and subscriptions. This list should include the name, digital address or a way to access it, and the access information such as username, password and security questions.

You might also use one of the many commercial services that offer to manage passwords and access codes.

Be sure to include digital liabilities as well. These are automatic payment plans, automatic renewal programs and other arrangements under which your bank account or credit card is automatically charged on a regular basis.

The inventory is essential. Without it, your heirs and executor are lost. Many estate planners have stories of executors hiring computer experts to crack passwords to computers and accounts.

Of course, your executor might not even learn about your digital assets without the inventory.

2. Decide what you want done and who should do it.

You might only want your spouse and one of your children to have access to your email accounts, not the executor.

Also, you might only want family members to handle social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. Keep in mind that the major digital providers have adopted policies that allow digital heirs some level of access to the accounts.
For instance, policies are in place for Google, Facebook and Twitter. But the policies differ and change over time. You need to check the service or user agreement of each provider to learn the details, and then be alert for changes.

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FADA states that a person’s expressed intention in a will or trust overrides limitations in a provider’s service agreement.

3. State your decisions in your will.

In states where FADA is in place, directions in your will or living trust control who has access to your digital assets. In other states, the rules aren’t clear, but it is best to include the directions in your will to establish your intentions and to have them in place in case the state does enact FADA.

Keep in mind that some digital accounts aren’t assets. When you purchase and download an electronic book from Amazon’s Kindle service or music from iTunes, you aren’t acquiring legal title to the file.

Under most service agreements, you only have a license for personal use.

These are not assets that can legally be given or bequeathed to someone. These rights are supposed to end with your passing.

Of course, many people have far more digital assets and accounts than they realize.

Keep in mind, they must be included in your estate plan, and the plan must be updated and revised as the law on estate planning for digital assets is revised.

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