As our digital lives continue to expand, digital assets are becoming a bigger component of estate planning. Unfortunately, some people fail to include digital assets in their estate plans, and laws made to apply to real-world assets may not handle digital assets well.
Control of digital assets can be critical in estate planning, even if these accounts don’t have any financial value.
Power-of-attorney agents or executors may need access to your digital accounts to complete their duties. Giving them access, while still protecting your accounts, should be a component of your estate plan. Consider the following techniques when giving access to digital accounts:
- Compile a list of your digital accounts so that your agent knows where to look.
- Give them your usernames and passwords. You may want to use password management software to make sure that your agents only get access to your accounts if you become incapacitated or pass away. Don’t include passwords in your will because this information may be viewed by the public.
- You may want to expressly authorize your agent to access your digital accounts in your legal documents, such as a power of attorney or trust.
- Include any specific instructions you want your agent to carry out.
The Importance of Digital Assets
Every type of digital account can be valuable, even if it doesn’t involve monetary value. You may want to give your executor access to your personal photo library in order to find images to use at your funeral. You could even leave messages for loved ones to receive after you’re gone.
You may want social media accounts preserved so that loved ones have a place they can express their grief. Other accounts could have financial value as well.
Credit card accounts may have unredeemed rewards points. Financial accounts can also be vulnerable to hacking or identify theft, and giving a loved one access can allow them to make sure no one is improperly using the account. Your executor may also need to access online accounts for phone, internet, and utility companies to pay your balances off.
The legal treatment of digital assets may continue to change. Ask your attorney about how to make sure your digital accounts are protected and preserved for your loved ones as part of your estate plan.
King Law handles estate planning matters in North and South Carolina, including wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Follow us on Facebook for more information and updates on legal issues.