What’s going to happen to your Facebook account when you die? Or all the songs you’ve downloaded from iTunes?
As digital assets become more common for all of us, it is important to incorporate them into estate plans. Unfortunately, that is not always easy to do.
The average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. That value includes purchased movies, books, music and games as well as personal memories, communications, personal records, hobbies and career information. More than 1/2 of the digital assets stored would be impossible to recreate, re-download or repurchase.
Unfortunately, those assets are increasingly at risk of being lost when the account owner dies. Many digital accounts are subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can often make it difficult or impossible for surviving loved ones to access them. Additionally, state and federal laws could put friends and relatives who try to log on to your accounts at risk of violating anti-hacking and privacy statutes.
Initiatives are under way to put more consumer-friendly laws in place regarding digital assets. Until then, though, it’s important to incorporate detailed directions and information surrounding your digital assets into your estate plan. Here are four steps to take now:
STEP 1: TAKE A DIGITIAL INVENTORY
Complete an annual review of all your online accounts and subscriptions and then prepare a list.
· Examples: Computing hardware: computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices.
· Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device.
· Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and website blogs that you may manage.
· Domain Names
· Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own.
STEP 2: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT DONE WITH YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS
What do you want to happen to these assets? You might want some to be archived and saved, others you may want deleted or erased. Possibly you may want to transfer accounts to family members or friends.
STEP 3: GATHER YOUR PASSWORDS AND STORE IN SECURE BUT ACCESSIBLE LOCATION:
Make a list of all your passwords and keep it in a safe place. Include a copy in your estate-planning portfolio. Make sure your spouse and children are aware or your plan and how to access it.
STEP 4: BE SPECIFIC:
Make sure your durable power of attorney includes specific provisions authorizing someone you trust to deal with your digital assets and online accounts. Your will or trust will have similar provisions to allow loved ones to deal with those assets after your death.
If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach county contact an experienced estate-planning attorney at The Hershey Law Firm, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at (954) 303-9468 to discuss your estate planning needs. You can't predict the future, but you can plan for it.