When you create your will or establish a trust, one of your top priorities is likely to keep loved ones from having to deal with ugly legal battles and personal disputes in the wake of your passing. Having a comprehensive estate plan can go a long way in doing this, though it can be easy to overlook certain details. These oversights can unfortunately cause the very problems you hoped to avoid.
Digital assets are among those details that people often overlook. After all, we can't exactly see these things, and oftentimes they are protected by considerable privacy measures, so others may not even know they exist. After you pass away, however, they could cause some legal headaches during the probate process unless you address them in your estate plan. Below are some of these common digital assets.
- Online bank accounts, including PayPal, Bitcoin and other financial apps and services
- Email accounts
- eBay stores and inventory
- Etsy stores
- Blogs or YouTube channels
- Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media accounts
- Accounts for utilities and loans
- Downloaded photos, music, movies and books
- Bills paid through auto-pay
- Online gaming accounts and assets
- Membership in virtual communities and groups
By not addressing these assets in an estate plan, issues can arise when it comes to determining who owns them, what should happen to them and who should have access to them.
However, now that you know about these digital assets, you can take steps to protect them. As noted in this Consumerist article, you can do things like assign a co-account holder, identify legacy contacts for social media accounts and keep a copy of passwords and logins to various accounts in a secure place that an appointed representative can access when necessary.
You can also talk to your estate planning attorney about these assets and the many legal options and restrictions that could affect if and how they are protected.