Ideally, an estate plan should be updated as a matter of course every three to five years. Often, however, people put off updating their estate plan until something spurs them to do so. If you are in this category, chances are your current estate plan does not address your digital assets. Understanding why you need to include digital assets in your estate plan should prompt you to finally review and revise your current estate plan, or create one if you have yet to do so.
In just the last decade, the average American’s lifestyle has become increasingly digitized. Take a minute to stop and think about your average day. If you are like most people, you talk on a cellular phone far more than a landline, you email instead of writing letters and send them snail mail, you pay bills over the computer, you use a debit card instead of writing checks, and you do at least some of your chopping online. In addition, you probably have at least one social media account and you may even have your own website or blog that is income producing. All of these things are potential digital assets and should be addressed in your estate plan for several reasons.
One important reason to include your digital assets in your estate plan is to make probate easier for your Executor. All of your online accounts have a log in and password. Your Executor will likely need to access some of your accounts during the probate process, particularly if you do your banking online and/or your investment portfolio is accessed online. Yes, these records can be requested through the financial institution but that will only hold up the probate process and cost your estate time and money. Therefore, for convenience sake you should take the time to make a list of all your accounts along with log in and password information. You also have the option to decide exactly who will have access to those accounts after your death. You may also wish to gift digital assets to loved ones in your estate plan. If you have an income producing blog, for example, it is an asset that can be gifted to a beneficiary in your estate plan.
Because the concept of digital assets is such a new concept most people are not even aware that they own any digital assets, much less that they need to include them in their estate plan. The future, however, is likely to become even more digitized, making now the time to start incorporating your digital assets into your plan. If you have additional questions or concerns about digital assets, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.