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Do not leave digital assets out of an estate plan

Many people in Moorestown have online bank accounts, purchase items online and pay their bills online. In fact, using digital assets have become so ubiquitous, that we do not really think about it as something special. However, when it comes to estate planning, these digital assets have value and need to be accounted for in an estate plan.

Without an estate plan that includes one's digital assets, whoever is the executor of the estate will have a difficult time not only accessing these assets, but also tracking them down altogether. If these items cannot be identified, they will ultimately be lost. Moreover, if these accounts are hacked, and the executor of the estate is not aware of them, it is the estate that will ultimately lose out.

In addition, many of these assets have terms-of-service agreements, which when combined with state and federal laws regarding the privacy of these digital accounts, make it a crime for someone to access the account who is not authorized to do so. Therefore, not only does someone, such as a loved one, need to know the user identification and passwords for online accounts, but also needs something that legally states that that the executor has the right to gain access to that particular digital asset. That being said, laws are being passed in many states that address how the executor of an estate can gain access to and manage to a person's digital assets after that person has passed away.

So, how can one address how their digital assets will be handled after they die? First of all, it is useful to create an inventory of one's digital assets, along with the user identifications and passwords so that the executor of the estate is not scrambling to obtain this information. And, it is possible to include a digital-asset plan in one's will, so long as one makes their intentions clear.

So much of our daily lives are online these days that we take them for granted. Digital assets can be just as valuable as other assets and should not be left out of the estate planning process. Through a careful accounting of digital assets and legally addressing them in an estate plan, it is possible for the executor of the estate to manage these assets as one deems fit.

Source: MarketWatch, "How to include your digital assets in your estate plan," Andrea Coombes, Aug. 17, 2016

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