Historically, individuals have focused a significant amount of time and planning in ensuring their physical assets were properly distributed after their passing. These concrete properties such as a car, the house or a prized book collection were often given special care and attention in the will. Times change, however, and more people spend more time in a digital environment with intangible assets that are just as valuable – just as cherished – as their tangible counterparts. How should digital assets be addressed in your estate plan?
In short, digital assets should be treated like any other asset. The fact that they are housed on a hard drive, in an online storage cloud or on a specific offsite server has no bearing on their value. It is crucial to address any type of online asset, such as:
- Entertainment collections: Individuals often devote significant time and money to building online entertainment collections. Hundreds or thousands of hours of enjoyment could be tied up in movie, music, book and video game collections that do not have a physical presence in your house.
- Online storefronts: From Facebook Marketplace to eBay, a digital storefront becomes valuable property for people wishing to sell items. From the storefront (website) itself to the customer relationships (reviews), these can represent time spent curating a positive online experience.
- Cryptocurrencies and online rewards: Essentially “digital money,” any type of cryptocurrency or consumer reward should be included in your will. From Bitcoin to airline miles, it makes sense to turn these over to an heir.
For all these assets, it is wise to consider leaving login instructions, passwords and written authorization transferring ownership and control to your heir. While many laws and regulations surrounding digital property are evolving, individuals can struggle with online privacy and security issues. For guidance while developing a comprehensive estate plan, it is crucial that you work with an experienced legal professional.