The Forgotten Part of Your Estate Plan: Your Digital Assets
Until about a decade or so ago, the estate settling process typically followed a very routine process. Once a person died, family members would notify that person’s estate planning attorney so they could begin a state settling process. The attorney would usually go over to the person’s house, examine any paper records, review the mail, and come up with a fairly accurate depiction of what the deceased person’s financial and property status at the time of death was.
Today, simply showing up at a deceased person’s home is not going to reveal everything. In addition to the ability to pay bills online, people can do any number of things digitally that they could not do before. Everything from electronically filed tax returns to online banking and social media have greatly complicated the estate planning process.
If you have not addressed your digital property in your estate plan, you need to contact your estate planning lawyer soon to begin this process. You may, for example, have bitcoins, personal photographs, music or documents that only exist on your computer. These are known as digital assets. If no one knows those things are there, or no one knows how to access them, they can pose a significant problem to the estate process. For younger couples, and those who are very involved in the digital world, these assets can be significant and transferring them after your death will be incredibly difficult if you do not take adequate precautions now.