What Digital Assets to Include in Your Estate Plan
The “digital asset” is a fairly new concept that has not been incorporated into estate planning until
recent years; therefore, many have failed to even take their digital presence into consideration when
planning their estates. As we discovered last week (See “The Benefits of Preserving Your Digital Legacy”), if you have a digital existence, it is in your best interest to incorporate such disposition with the rest of your
In determining what digital assets you should include in your estate plan, it is first important to understand
exactly what assets we are referring to. Digital assets include all online accounts (profiles) and digital files
that you own (see “Digital Asset Inventory,” below). As a starting point, it may be helpful to determine
and separate accounts in terms of their monetary and sentimental values, as you will likely want to plan for
the disposition of both types.
Monetary Digital Assets: You may want to leave specific instructions for the monetary accounts,
including the account information, and how you want the account to be closed or maintained. Because of
the safety concerns associated with such accounts, you should be cautious with how you record the
information. For example, you may not want to include all of the usernames and passwords onto one
document, as it could be detrimental if it falls into the wrong hands. Therefore, you may want to consider
putting usernames on a separate document than passwords, and can be stored at different locations or with
different family members. On that same note, there are many afterlife management companies that store all
of this information for you. This presents the same concern that all of the information could be exposed, in
the event that the security system is breached.
Sentimental Digital Assets: With sentimental accounts, your main concern will be minimizing the hassle
associated with loved one’s accessing your accounts. As explained in “The Social Networker’s Asset
Protection Guide” (above), each account has different user agreements, which will effect how you instruct
their disposition. Therefore, it is important to read the user agreements for each account, to ensure that your instructional provisions are consistent with what you have legally agreed to. Also, don’t forget to include those files that you have on your computer, phone, a zip drive, or on a “cloud.” Be certain to include these digital assets in your estate plan, as failure to do so can lead to problems arising from terms of service
agreements, privacy, and rights of beneficiaries.
Now that you have determined your digital assets, it is all about legacy, privacy, & security planning.
Go through each item on your list, and decide which type of planning it falls under. Additionally,
consider who you would want to appoint to take care of the management and distribution of your
digital assets. This will help your attorney draft the appropriate provisions that will preserve and
protect your digital afterlife.
Digital Asset Inventory
Q: What Digital Assets Do You Own?
Consider the following digital assets as a prompt in creating your own digital inventory:
▪ Email accounts
▪ Social networking accounts
▪ Domain names
▪ Online subscriptions
▪ Pictures and Videos
o Kodak Easyshare
▪ Virtual Businesses
o Ebay businesses/seller accounts
▪ Online payment accounts
o Bank Accounts
o Shopping accounts (Amazon, Ebay, Paypal)
o Bill accounts
▪ Computer Games – Avatars
o World of Warcraft
o Second Life
▪ Any personal files on a:
o “Cloud” (online hard-drive)
o Zip drive