I recently met with some clients to consider their estate plan. Since they last reviewed their estate plan they had accumulated significant digital assets (DA). When considering your estate plan it is important to ensure you have catered for your digital assets and their management and distribution.
What are digital assets?
A DA is anything you own:
- on a digital device, for example, a computer, laptop, mobile or tablet including the data stored on a digital device, for example, documents, emails, photos and music; and
- on the web, for example, online storage accounts, online shopping accounts, social media accounts and online financial/banking accounts.
Why is it important to consider in your estate plan?
If your estate plan does not specifically empower someone to manage your DA, the assets may be left in limbo. The risks of them being left in limbo include:
- social media and privacy issues – if social media accounts are left open and there is a continual online presence for a deceased person or someone who has lost capacity, this may create difficult situations for family members;
- prevention of the transfer of assets – if a digital asset has been specifically bequeathed to a beneficiary in a will, that beneficiary may not have access or be aware of the location of that asset;
- devaluing the estate – if there are DA worth a significant value (i.e. blogs or online shopping accounts) if the assets are left unattended or unmonitored, the asset may decrease in value.
It is important to specifically give someone the power to access and manage your DA.
How can you deal with your digital assets in your will and power of attorney?
If you have digital assets, I suggest that you consider the following in your estate plan:
- Appointing someone to deal with your DA in your estate planning documents, whether this is your attorney, your executor and/or a third party;
- Specifically giving your nominated person the power to access and manage your digital assets;
- Preparing a separate memorandum with your will and/or power of attorney for your nominated person, with the details, passwords, answers to secret questions and/or instructions to access your digital assets. This can be kept private and confidential in a sealed envelope.
If you have not catered for your DA in your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your current situation.