In developing a comprehensive estate plan, one major issue is to see that your family members or the personal representative of your estate will be aware of the scope of your digital assets. Otherwise, they would not know where to look beyond the usual resources like photos on a mobile phone or a personal email account.
Do a digital inventory
Develop a master list now – and keep it current – of electronic devices and online assets, including how to access them via usernames, passwords, authentication procedures, security questions and other security tools required for access. Include on the list online accounts you use to pay bills so that your personal representative also knows about your liabilities.
Keep the list in a secure place like a safe deposit box. Perhaps store it with your will, but do not incorporate it into the will, which could become a public document if filed in court. Be sure your family and any personal representative you name in your will knows where you will keep the list of digital assets and security keys.
Evaluate your digital estate
It may be hard to determine whether electronically held assets have monetary value or just sentimental value – and the answers to this question will likely evolve at a fast pace and sometimes fall into gray areas.
Digital assets that may have actual monetary value:
- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
- Websites, domain names and website content, including blogs
- Email accounts used for business purposes owned individually by you and not by an employer
- Gaming avatars and rewards and online gambling accounts
- For business owners, electronically stored business data such as banking, financial and customer information
- Retirement, bank, investment and similar accounts
- Items purchased in an iTunes or similar account, which could include not only music but also expensive software programs, games and apps, for example
- And others
Digital assets that may have sentimental value, raise privacy or security concerns, or reveal your liabilities or debts necessary to wrapping up your affairs:
- Personal or family photos or videos stored in a company’s cloud or on personal devices
- Frequent flyer miles or other, similar accounts with merchants
- Social media accounts, including related messaging services
- Personal email accounts, websites and blogs
- Medical accounts
- Text records and contact lists on mobile phones and held by mobile phone companies
- Online accounts with merchants holding personal information like buying histories and credit card accounts
- Online financial services like PayPal that may have your credit card information
- And others
In part 2 of this post, we will continue our discussion of digital assets and related Colorado laws.