Estate planning that includes your digital assets is evidence of how quickly our world is changing. Over the last few decades and certainly in recent years, digital files and methods of storage have changed dramatically. Where you once had CDs and VHS tapes, you now have images, movies, and even more electronic and digital formats stored on your cell phone, computer, and in the “cloud”. While we all appreciate the ease of access, it brings up the question of what happens to the electronic files and digital assets we possess when we pass away.
When you meet with an attorney to discuss your estate plan, it’s possible that digital assets are part of what you want to pass on to the next generation. You may have imagined your great-grandchildren inheriting your collection of DVDs and music so they can enjoy them just as much as you did. In the interest of saving space you currently have them stored in online accounts.
Here’s what you need to know about passing on your digital assets.
Switching to the cloud
Storing electronic media in the “cloud” seemed so straightforward as it rolled out. A generation that watched media formats change several times over the years has readily accepted the idea of online accounts that store all types of digital content.
Can’t I just give them my password?
While you can and should include a document with usernames and passwords for all of your digital accounts as part of your estate plan, it might be a violation of your user agreement to allow access by sharing your login information.
Then why include my passwords?
You should include digital account information in your estate planning portfolio so your personal representative can wrap up your affairs and close accounts after your death. Although some of your online accounts may expire over time without further action, having your personal representative close out these accounts can help prevent fraud and abuse.
Can I pass on my digital assets?
In short, the assets you own that are stored on physical hard drives and other tangible storage devices are just as easy to pass on to a beneficiary as any of your other assets. On the other hand, assets that are stored by a third party through an online account typically do not allow the same privilege.
Review the user agreements relating to each of your digital accounts. Some permit an item or items to be downloaded a certain number of times without violating the terms of the agreement. You can plan ahead and leave estate planning instructions for your personal representative to follow which include information about your digital assets. This will ensure that even those specialized assets will be enjoyed by your loved ones for years to come.
Call VanNess & VanNess, P.A. with all of your estate planning needs today.