Planning Your Estate

Estate planning for digital assets may not be something you’ve considered, despite the fact that we now live in the “Digital Age.” When you think about it, many of our possessions today are digital — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media accounts. If you own a website, then it’s also a digital asset. In fact, many business owners have ecommerce websites and have developed web marketing that is quite valuable and integral to the success of their businesses. In addition, you may have cloud storage accounts. Dropbox is an example, an account where you can keep photos that are difficult to put a price on, but nevertheless are irreplaceable.

Computers, iPads, tablets, cell phones or other digital devices are also digital assets. Not to mention, there are all the passwords you’ve generated to access your banking, credit cards, shopping and other online accounts.

Cryptocurrency is another aspect of estate planning that is vital to consider. This is particularly true when substantial assets are involved.

How Should Estate Planning Address Digital Assets?

You will need to create an inventory of digital assets. Also, the information necessary to access digital assets must be in documented form including passwords. Be sure to also include answers to secret questions. You will not specifically include passwords or access codes in a will or trust but would make reference to it in the documentation. The only way to access an account for cryptocurrency is with a private key. If there is no record of the private key and you become incapacitated or die, no one will be able to recover the funds.

There are state and federal laws to consider. These laws have to do with privacy and exist to prevent hacking. In fact, violations of these laws are criminal offenses. The 18 U.S. Code CHAPTER 121— STORED WIRE AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSACTIONAL RECORDS ACCESS is an example. It defines unlawful access to stored communications.

For this reason, it is vital to work with an estate planning attorney. Attorneys can also take into consideration factors such as terms-of-service agreements and other requirements necessary for giving an executor access.

If you have questions about estate planning for digital assets, our attorneys at Richardson Brown are glad to help.