When most people decide to create an estate plan, they automatically think about the person or people they want to receive their property, such as a house or business. In the past, all that was included in a will or trust was money or property.
However, in this day and age, including digital assets in estate planning is a crucial part of the process. Most of us have established a significant digital footprint with so much of our lives stored on a hard drive or remote servers known as the cloud.
What digital assets should you include in an estate plan?
In essence, a digital asset is any online document or file that you own. Without planning for how these items will be distributed, controlled or accessed after your death, that oversight can lead to anxiety and unnecessary costs for loved ones and jeopardize your wishes and legacy. Here are the main assets to include in your estate plan:
- Social media accounts: Many of us spend a great deal of time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms. The average American has five accounts. It’s vital to your legacy to designate someone to handle them with instructions on how you want them managed.
- Financial accounts: Many people manage their bank and investment accounts online and conduct transactions through apps like PayPal or Venmo. All of these accounts should be included in your estate plan.
- Online rewards: Most companies have created online programs to reward their customers with cashback, discounts or points. Many of these accounts, over time, can become extremely valuable. Failing to add them to an estate plan could be costly.
- Photos, etc.: Cherished photographs, music and video files that are digitized fall under another category to include in a will. As with your social media accounts, these items may not be worth a lot of money, but they may be priceless as far as sentimental value goes.
Provide specific information to allow access
Once you add these items, make sure you include all the required information, so your executor, personal representative or others you designate can access them, such as the account’s name, web address, account number, user name and password, information for two-step authentication and answers to security questions.
In your will, state who will have access to each item and include instructions on how you want them managed. Tennessee is one of many states to adopt the Uniform Fiduciary to Digital Assets Act to allow easier access for accounts not included in a will. The law enables executors to access online financial assets without special permission, but not social media accounts and other personal digital files.