Naperville Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Protecting Your Digital Assets

digital assets, Naperville estate planning attorneyWhen you are looking toward the future and you begin the process of developing a comprehensive estate plan, it is easy to look at account statements, insurance policies, and other documents that list physical assets to determine what property will need to be considered in your will, trusts, or other planning instruments. In today’s increasingly digital world, though, you probably have a number of other assets—whether you choose to think of them that way or not—that are only accessible through electronic means. This may include downloaded songs or apps on iTunes, available funds in a PayPal account, or simply valuable and necessary data within various email accounts.

On your own, you may not be sure where to begin when it comes to addressing your digital assets in your estate plan. In my estate planning practice, I encourage my clients to start by taking a few relatively simple measures that can make the entire process much easier.

Digital Asset Protection in Four Steps

  1. Identify Your Digital Assets:

    If you have never done so, put together a list of all of your online and digital property. This may include hardware like your smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop computers, as well as online accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram, websites, and blogs. You may even want to inventory your work-related electronic data, to be sure that important things are not left unaccounted for in the event of an accident or emergency.

  2. Identify One or More Digital Custodians:

    Although “digital custodian” is not a recognized legal term, the concept should be rather clear. When you choose an executor, you may not be able to find a single individual who is capable of making your major financial decisions and has the technical savvy to reasonably manage your digital assets as well. Therefore, you may need to consider a separate person or persons to trust with your online accounts, but who is ultimately under the supervision of your executor.

  3. Provide Necessary Access:

    In addition to listing your various digital assets, you will need provide the needed information for accessing them. In most cases, it is not a good idea to compile lists of usernames, passwords, and PINs, but for estate planning purposes, your executor and attorney may be at an impasse without them. Remaining up to date on such a list can be a challenge, since many sites require regular password changes, but with access to email and other accounts, your digital custodian should be able to have enough information to help you.

  4. Leave Instructions:

    Accessing your digital assets can be an exercise in futility if you do not have a plan for what is to be done with them. You will need to decide if you want various accounts to be closed, assets to be transferred, if permitted, or maintained for the future. For some, shutting down an account or a site may cut off streams of potential revenue, so it is vital to have a plan in place for such investments and how future earnings will be handled.

Get the Help You Need

If you have questions about including your digital assets in your will or other estate planning documents, contact an experienced Naperville estate planning attorney. We can help you find the answers you need and will work with you in providing the security that you and your family deserve. Call The Giearch Law Firm today at 630-756-1160 to schedule an appointment.

 

Sources:

Wall Street Journal

American Bar Association