Protecting/Bequeathing Digital Assets
Jan. 26, 2021
Email accounts, social media profiles, websites, cryptocurrency—each of us leaves behind a digital footprint. But what happens to your digital presence after you die? Your digital assets might be valuable and should be part of your estate plan.
What Are Considered Digital Assets?
In 2013, security company McAfee did a survey of digital device use and found that the average person has $35,000 worth of assets stored on their personal devices. That was seven years ago. Imagine what that figure would look like today. Digital assets don't have to have represent a dollar figure to be valuable, however. Digital photo and video files or old email messages might have sentimental value that you want to safeguard.
Everyone has digital assets, but most of us aren't aware of it. The following are some examples of what the Florida Bar Association considers digital assets:
Digital media libraries (music, movies, eBooks, podcasts, or other media files)
Social media profiles
Websites or blogs
Subscriptions to web-based services (streaming platforms, digital magazine subscriptions)
Files in cloud-based storage
Membership to retail rewards or points programs
Electronic medical records
Digital intellectual property
Should You Bequeath Digital Assets?
Including digital assets in your estate plan will save some hassle for your family after you've died. Laws haven't caught up to technology when it comes to digital assets and estate planning. Privacy regulations, both in Florida and at the federal level, prevent unauthorized access to digital records. Also, if you haven't included your digital assets in your estate, your fiduciary or family members might not know it exists—digital assets don't' leave a “paper trail.”
Even if they can locate your digital assets, your heirs still might have trouble accessing them. Online service providers aren't required to disclose the contents of their users' accounts, even to a fiduciary or heir. Most websites won't give out passwords without a court order, either. However, if you consent to grant access to your digital accounts and assets, it puts the executor of your estate in a much better position. If you generate income from digital properties, it's especially in your interest to get them settled.
How Do Estate and Tax Lawyers Help You Protect and Pass Along Your Digital Assets in Florida?
Estate planners familiar with digital assets in the state of Florida can simplify the planning process for you. Identifying digital property is the hard part. Once you know what your assets are, you can proceed as you would with tangible personal property.
Digital estate planning goes more smoothly if you stick to these essentials:
Clearly identify someone to manage your digital assets
List all your digital assets on a personal property memorandum as part of your estate planning documents
Ensure any ancillary documents give the proper authority to digital records
If you need help revising or developing an estate plan that integrates digital assets, Veliz Katz Law can help. Contact us. We'll help you identify, protect, and pass along your digital assets.