Today, almost everything is accomplished electronically. If you really stop and think about how much you do in a single day that is done in one electronic form or another, you might be astounded – particularly if you are over the age of about 40 or so. All of these digital transactions are done through some type of electronic account. Those accounts are also part of your estate, though you may never have thought about them that way. So what happens to them when you die? The answer depends on whether or not you include them in your estate plan now.
The rules, procedures, and laws that relate to traditional estate planning are very clear because they have evolved over centuries of litigation and experience. Digital assets, however, didn’t exist for the average person until just over a decade ago. For this reason, the law has yet to catch up, meaning that there is no real precedent for what happens to digital assets or electronic accounts once you die in most cases. Unfortunately, your user agreement or account contract may dictate what happens upon your death and even that may be unclear.
Before you dismiss the need for digital estate planning because you really don’t care what happens to your Facebook account if you die, remember that investment accounts, bank accounts, frequent flyer accounts, and numerous other electronic accounts are also included in the concept of “digital estate planning.” The executor of your estate may not even be able to access important information if you don’t take the time to create a digital estate plan. Talk to your estate planning attorney today about your digital estate plan to ensure that you are not leaving important assets and information out of your plan.