Taking Digital Assets Into Consideration When Planning Your Estate

Whether social, work-related, personal, or financial, most aspects of our lives involve some sort of an online presence. The implications of this trend are especially important when it comes to finances and estate planning, so if you are thinking about creating or amending an estate plan, you should contact an experienced estate planning lawyer who can help you account for all of your property – including your digital assets.

Managing Your Digital Assets

In prior decades, estate planning was made up primarily of a person’s physical financial assets, such as real estate, collectibles and jewelry. Planning for the administration of a person’s assets has become much more complicated in recent years for several reasons, including the increasing importance of digital assets, which consist of:

    This applies to a wide range of accounts and investments, including:

    ● Online bank and investment accounts;
    ● Important computer files and documents;
    ● Digital photographs and videos;
    ● Memberships and subscriptions;
    ● Blogs and websites; and
    ● E-book and online music collections.

These assets pose unique challenges to the estate planning process because online policies regarding digital assets are constantly evolving. For this reason, it is important not only to ensure digital assets are incorporated into one’s estate plan, but also to set up a regular process for updating the information, which will make it easier for beneficiaries to access and manage the assets at a later date.

Unique Challenges

Although estate planning for digital assets involves the same basic process as planning for physical property, it also comes with some unique challenges. For instance, there are special factors that testators must take into consideration when including these types of assets in their estate plans, including privacy and intellectual property laws. Many online services do not have clear policies on how digital assets should be managed once their owners pass away. For example, some testators choose to leave access to their passwords and online accounts to an executor while their estate is being distributed. Some companies, however, consider this a violation of their terms of use and choose to close or freeze the account.

Fortunately, in 2015, the Illinois Legislature passed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which clarifies how users can utilize their wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other records to disclose their digital assets to a fiduciary – regardless of a company’s terms of service agreements.

Planning for Your Digital Assets

Careful planning and research is necessary when adding digital assets to an estate plan, so testators should consider taking the following steps during the estate planning process:

    This applies to a wide range of accounts and investments, including:

    ● Taking inventory of their digital assets;
    ● Identifying the person who will handle their digital assets after they pass away;
    ● Documenting all passwords, which allow access to accounts, including crypto keys and security codes;
    ● Providing detailed instructions regarding their wishes for the assets, including how they will be distributed amongst their heirs; and
    ● Assigning someone to act on their behalf when it comes to the management of online accounts.

For help ensuring your own digital assets are accounted for in your estate plan, please call our legal team today.

Experienced Northbrook Estate Planning Lawyers

Please contact Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law at 847-325-5559 today to discuss amending your estate plan to account for your digital assets with a dedicated estate planning lawyer.

Updated as of July 2019
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