Don’t Forget Your Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
When you create or update your estate plan, creating a list of all your assets is wise. In today’s electronic age, that includes your digital assets. Because people frequently overlook these assets in their estate plans, the estate planning attorneys at Zimmer Law Firm encourage you not to forget your digital assets in your estate plan.
What Are My Digital Assets?
The internet has changed our lives significantly in just a short time frame. In a single generation, things like laptop computers and cell phones have gone from luxury items to something the average kindergartener owns, operates, and even learns on. Regardless of your age, though, you almost certainly own digital assets. Identifying them is the first step toward including them in your estate plan. With that in mind, take some time to make a list of the following digital assets you might own, including things such as:
- Social media accounts
- Information and data stored online or in the cloud
- Subscription services
- Email accounts
- Domain names
- Intellectual property
- Online banking accounts
- Credit card accounts
- Utility accounts
- Contact lists
- Shopping accounts
- Photo and video sharing and storage accounts
- Smartphone, computer, tablet, or cloud data
- Existing digital collections
- Websites or blogs you maintain
- Online marketplace stores
- Domain names
- Cryptocurrency keys
- Text, graphic, and audio files (or other intellectual property)
Can Your Beneficiaries Access Your Digital Assets?
Having a list of your digital assets will certainly be helpful during the administration of your estate; however, if your Executor and/or beneficiaries cannot access those assets, the list is all but pointless. To address this problem, many states, including Ohio, have adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), which lays out three tiers for accessing digital assets:
- Tier 1. If a digital service provides a tool to designate what happens to assets after you die, this designation guides what happens to the account. For example, if you used Google’s inactive account manager to designate a family member, this designation would guide what happens to your Google assets.
- Tier 2. If there isn’t any tool, then the owner’s directions in a will or legal document determine the handling of the account or asset.
- Tier 3. If neither of the first two scenarios are present, the terms-of-service agreement dictates how those accounts can be accessed. As mentioned, those agreements often restrict access to the original owner.
How Do I Include My Digital Assets in My Estate Plan?
Your traditional Executor can handle the distribution of your digital assets; however, many people designate a separate “Digital Executor.” This person is tasked with accessing and inventorying all your electronic files. Valuable digital assets, such as intellectual property, websites, and monetized blogs, can be gifted in the same manner as conventional assets are gifted in a Will or trust; however, be sure you understand the process required for transferring ownership of the assets. Gatekeeper digital assets, such as account information relating to your investment accounts, allow access to valuable assets. These assets are not valuable alone but should also be treated with care in your estate plan because they ultimately gift valuable assets.
Contact a Loveland Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about including your digital assets in your estate plan, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Zimmer Law Firm by calling 513-721-1513 to schedule your appointment today.