Digital assets are online accounts which you own and access using your computer. Digital assets include email accounts such as gmail, and yahoo, social networking accounts such as linked in, and facebook, online shopping accounts, and videos on sites like youtube. Not all digital assets have significant monetary value, but some do. It is important that your family is informed about them for a number of reasons. Therefore, you need to consider each of these types of assets when planning your estate and drafting your estate planning documents.
Planning for these types of assets are important for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, the following:
1. Executors. Planning is very important so that your executors can make sure that they are aware of all of your digital accounts, the passwords, and other specific information to allow them to access your digital assets. Executors may need to go to the probate court to obtain authority to gain access to your various digital assets. Sometimes, even after obtaining this authority, the executors may still run into problems with the third parties who run the various websites. Therefore, in order to make your executors’ lives easier, prepare a separate document, outside of your will, which lists all of your digital assets and the important information for your executors.
2. Identity Theft. Another important reason for allowing your executors to be able to understand your digital assets is to make sure that identity theft does not occur after you pass away. Identity theft is becoming an increasingly problematic situation, specifically for those individuals who have passed away. It is very common for an individual who has passed away to have their identity used by unscrupulous individuals. If your Executor is aware of all of your digital assets, then he or she can take the necessary steps to make sure identity theft does not occur after your death.
3. Make Sure That All Possible Value is Obtained by the Executor. Since some digital assets do have value, it is very important to make sure that your executor has all of the information that he or she needs in order to provide the most value to your estate. Therefore, it is very important that you make sure that your executor has all pertinent information including any password protected material which allow them access. If you have named someone as your executor, then you have made a conscious decision that you trust them. Therefore, it is very important that you allow them all the necessary information that they will need in order to access your digital assets in order to make a decision as to their value.
An unusual asset that you should plan for is gold in your teeth. This may seem silly, but with the increasing value of gold, it is important that you plan who is to receive any gold fillings you may have after your death, if you do not want the gold to stay with your body. Please consult your estate planning attorney to assist you with planning for this type of asset.
Digital assets are becoming increasingly more valuable assets in an individual’s estate. Therefore, please make sure that you plan to allow your executor to have access to those items. I do not recommend that the information be placed in your Last Will and Testament since that will someday become a public document. However, at the same time that you execute your Will, you should execute another contemporaneous document which lists all of your digital assets and any information which your executor would need in order to access those digital assets.
NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.
James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning,
Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., LPA
158 North Broadway
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663
Phone: (330) 364-3472
Fax: (330) 602-3187