Why Should Your Digital Assets Be Part of Your Estate Plan?

Inez Bowie | November 21st, 2013

Just when you think your estate plan is complete, is it really? Your will gives your personal property to your daughter, Suzie. Great, Suzie gets your laptop and your smartphone. But what happens to your online accounts, emails, Facebook account, iTunes account, that special digital crown won in an online game, and digital pictures stored in the “cloud”? Does Suzie know where to find your usernames or passwords? Even if she does, does she have a right to access the accounts? 

In today’s ever-increasing digital world, many people have increasing amounts of digital assets stored on computers, online, and on other electronic devices. While some of these digital assets may have financial value others may have more sentimental value. But just like your other assets, your digital assets can be transferred to your family or friends when you pass away. The key is to plan now for the preservation of your digital assets.

What Are Digital Assets?

So what exactly are considered digital assets? Good question. The most common are:

  • Electronic devices, including computers, netbooks, tablets, smartphones
  • Email accounts
  • Online banking, shopping and bill-paying accounts
  • Webpages, domain names, blogs
  • Social networking accounts
  • Pictures, videos and digital music

Importance of Planning For Your Digital Assets

You may not particularly care about the future of your digital assets, but with our increasing technological world, it’s critical that your family or estate plan executor has instructions and an understanding of your digital presence. Here are a few reasons why future planning for your digital assets is important:

  • It can ensure the financial and sentimental preservation of your digital assets.
  • It can make things easier on your family members and estate executors by making it easy for them to easily find and deal with your digital assets.
  • It can help prevent identity theft. If your family members and executor can’t access your online accounts and deal with them efficiently, criminals may open credit cards, make purchases, or obtain state identification cards under your name.
  • It can also prevent losses to the estate. If online bills aren’t discovered quickly, late fees and cancellation notices will start piling up.

How To Start Planning The Future Of Your Digital Assets

  1. Work with a trusted estate planner and attorney.
  2. Determine what your digital presence is and assemble a complete inventory of all digital assets, including a list of user names and passwords. Compiling all of the information into an Excel spreadsheet might be a great way to organize your information.
  3. List instructions for how each digital asset should be handled after you’re gone.

Estate Planning Help

Each state has different standards and guidelines about how it deals with digital assets. Not to mention, many of the online accounts have their own policies and procedures. While the law hasn’t really caught up with the digital world, it’s important for you to begin considering now what digital assets you have, what your wishes are, and talk with your estate planners to incorporate this information into your overall estate plan. Contact Rea & Associates to get started. Our team of Ohio personal tax planning professionals can help you begin to a plan around your digital assets.


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