One of the changes the internet and computer age has brought about is a change in the types of assets individuals have. In today's world, many people have a fair amount of digital assets, such as digital photos, digital videos, social media accounts, digital documents, digital currencies, online video game characters, domain names, etc. As is the case with any type of asset, it can be important for individuals to address their digital assets in their estate planning. When a person leaves their digital assets out of their estate plan, it could leave things very up in the air when it comes to what will happen with these assets after they die.
Now, there are certain things about digital assets that can be challenging from an estate planning perspective.
One is that digital assets can be particularly difficult for the personal representative of a person's estate to detect if they haven't been made aware of them in advance. Thus, it could be easy for a digital asset to escape a personal representative's notice during the estate administration process. This is one of the reasons why a person having a clear and accurate list of their digital assets and online account information for their personal representative can be important.
Another thing about digital assets that can be challenging is how frequently they and the account information connected to them can change. Keeping an estate plan properly updated is quite important, and the tendency of digital assets to experience frequent changes can pose some difficulties when it comes to keeping an estate plan appropriately up-to-date.
Adding another layer of complexity to estate planning issues involving digital assets is the fact that the laws and rules regarding what can be done with digital assets after a person's death are currently in a pretty unsettled and varied state. State laws here in the U.S. and online user agreements vary considerably when it comes to their treatment of these issues.
As one can see, digital assets can present some unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. Thus, having an estate planning attorney's guidance on addressing the unique estate planning issues related to digital assets can be important when a person is working to incorporate their digital assets into their estate plan.
Source: The New York Times, "Plan Your Digital Legacy, and Update Often," Constance Gustke, Nov. 11, 2015