When we first sit down to think about our estate plan and consider our assets, the things that come to mind are assets like a home, a car, and a retirement account. Yet, in this day and age our assets are much more varied and most people will have belongings not just in the tangible sense, but also in the digital realm. Digital assets are things like social media accounts, online banking accounts, and blogs. Mostly we think of these as holders of our photos and conversations with loved ones, but they can be much more than that.
Online accounts can hold more than just photos and memories, they can also contain a lot of monetary value. For example, a popular blog or photo sharing account may have value because of the ad revenue it pulls in and because of the intellectual property contained on the site. These types of accounts will be governed according to the rules of whatever company hosts the site, and so it is important to familiarize oneself with the terms and address any areas that need specific attention in a will.
Another area of concern for digital assets is online banking and investment accounts. It is crucial to keep a full list of these accounts and to provide instructions for handling the accounts after one’s passing, so that assets aren’t tied up or left languishing by mistake. Family members may not know the full extent of one’s online financial presence, so keeping a complete record of these accounts is essential for the immediate issues facing relatives after a death, such as keeping bills up to date and closing down credit cards.
Source: USA Today, “Estate plan should pass down digital heirlooms,” Sue Doefler, April 17, 2014.