The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift of our lives to the virtual world: virtual work meetings, virtual banking, virtual socialization. Of course, many people were shifting a great deal of their lives to the internet before the outbreak, but it has become a more significant element in nearly everyone’s life.
This shift has changed how we work, how we handle non-work projects and what we do with our leisure time. As a result, individuals are amassing a large quantity of what are known as digital assets. Because your estate plan should reflect your life, it is important to make sure your will is updated with directions on how your digital assets should be treated when you die.
What Are Digital Assets?
Many people have a substantial amount of digital assets and don’t even realize it.
- If use social media for work or personal reasons and you have an account with a large number of followers, your accounts are digital assets.
- If you store photos and videos online (in the cloud), those are digital assets.
- If you participate in a workplace recognition program or consumer loyalty program in which you earn points with a monetary value, that’s a digital asset.
- If you store value in a PayPal account or other online account, that is a digital asset.
- Your online access to financial accounts, services and subscriptions are digital assets.
- For entrepreneurs who have a business website, that is a digital asset.
Just as you have created a will that explains who should receive your Steinway grand piano, your collectible car or your summer home, you will want to designate how your digital assets should be treated upon your death. If your estate plan has not been updated with directions on how these digital assets should be treated – and how they can be accessed – your beneficiaries may not be able to recover them at all.
Digital Assets Are A Reason To Update Estate Plans
Just as life events such as divorce or the death of a spouse are reasons to update an existing estate plan, so too is the accumulation of digital assets. If you do not have information about your online accounts in your will, it’s time to do so. Actually, it’s past time to do so.
A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you develop an inventory of your digital assets, create instructions on who can access them, and provide directions regarding how these assets should be handled upon your death.