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Estate planning in the digital era

Even if you have yet to create your estate plan, you’ve likely given some thought to who you’d like to inherit your property, money and precious heirlooms when your time comes. However, with life becoming increasingly digitized, many people overlook an essential chunk of their estate when making end-of-life plans: their digital assets.

Simply put, digital assets are assets that exist online. Common digital assets people have include:

  • Social media accounts
  • Email accounts
  • Personal photos stored online
  • Online bank or investment accounts
  • Virtual currencies like Bitcoin
  • Credit card reward programs
  • Any websites or blogs that generate income
  • Digital photos, videos or written works that make income
  • Information and documents stored in the cloud

Just as with tangible property, digital property can be passed on to beneficiaries through an estate plan. But if you don’t account for them, your family will likely face more than a few challenges gaining access to your valuable digital assets and vital personal information. Fortunately, these hurdles are avoidable by addressing your digital property in your estate plan.

Here are a few ways you can make your estate plan digital-savvy and ensure your loved ones can access your accounts:

Create a list of your digital assets

Start by cataloging all of your digital assets so that your family knows what you have and where to locate it. Be sure to include all essential passwords, online accounts and digital property. While you’ll want to store this list in a safe place, you’ll also want to make sure your loved ones know how to access it.

Determine what you truly own

There are instances in which you might not own an asset but, in fact, purchased a nontransferable license to use the asset. This is often the case when you buy music or videos online. If you have an extensive music or movie library online, be sure to check the terms of agreement with the vendors to determine whether you own it or have a license.

Back up data stored in the cloud

Try not to only rely on the cloud for backing up your essential data. If you store digital assets in the cloud, you should back them up regularly to a local computer or device to give your family members easier access.

Digital assets are becoming increasingly more important when planning for end-of-life. When creating your estate plan, be sure to account for your online assets and add to your list as needed.

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