The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to embrace technology, whether we like it or not. Oh yes, many of us are now working from home, going to school online, meeting our friends over FaceTime; and more and more Seniors are mastering the internet in order to pay their bills and stay in touch with their loved ones. None of us anticipated these changes coming so quickly and yet here we are. And as helpful as online technology has been in keeping us connected with the world outside our doors, these technological advancements bring about a very interesting question when it comes to the subject of estate planning – with everything online now, how do I protect my digital assets?
So, what exactly is a digital asset? Digital assets can range from your travel rewards to online photos to web domains to crypto assets – some may have financial value and even a possible tax liability on death, while some just have personal and sentimental value to you.
Typically, you would keep an inventory of your physical assets – your house, your car, jewellery, etc. – and have already given some thought as to what happens to these assets upon death. Even if you don’t have an inventory of these physical assets, the executor of your estate will be able to locate them by searching your home or paper files. Sounds fairly simple. However, would your executor be able to find all of your digital assets? Not so simple! Passwords and Terms of Service agreements could make it increasingly difficult for your executor to access your digital assets, even if they could find them.
Knowing this, how do you protect your assets? Well, you need to make sure of two things:
- Your trustee or executor must be aware of what digital assets you have and where to find them
- Your trustee or executor must be able to access your digital assets
When planning your will, be sure to include your digital assets and have a real conversation with your executor about what you want done with them. For example, do you want your social media accounts to remain when you’re gone or would you prefer to have them shut down? The truth is that estate administration is in its infancy when it comes to digital assets. Because current laws don’t yet fully deal with this little puzzle, the task falls on you to ensure that you have a complete asset inventory list – physical and digital – and that you share it with your executor.