It wasn’t that long ago that everything a person owned could be physically touched. Money, items of personal property, journals, and even photographs could be held in one’s hand. Nowadays, though, much of our lives has be digitized. Thousands of dollars can change hands without ever touching paper money, and our most cherished memories are often stored somewhere online. While this convenience may make our lives easier, it can make estate planning trickier.
To start, most of these digital assets require secured login before they can be accessed. Those who fail to take this into account when planning their estate may leave their loved ones with no way access and manage those assets. This may mean that those assets, such as photographs and personal writings, will be forever deleted considering that many web-based services delete accounts after a certain period of time after an account-holder’s death.
But this lack of access doesn’t just affect assets with sentimental value. Loved ones may not even know that certain bank accounts exist without clear direction from an estate plan. This is especially true considering the fact that many individuals utilize banks that don’t even have brick and mortar operations. When these accounts are overlooked, they can be left out of the estate distribution process. The same holds true for rewards accounts linked to services like airlines and hotel chains. Oftentimes these benefits can be inherited, but heirs and an estate executor must be aware of them before that can happen.
There are a number of ways to protect digital assets during the estate planning process. Of course, simply identifying all assets in one’s will is a great way to ensure that they are included in asset distribution, but a letter of instruction to the estate’s executor can also specify where accounts are located and how to login to them. To best ensure that all of your assets, including your digital assets, are appropriately accounted for in the estate planning process, Californians may want to sit down with an attorney who can guide them through the process.