Planning your estate normally focuses on assets like your home, bank accounts, insurance policies and belongings. However, there is another type of property that you need to address when planning your estate: your digital assets. In 2017, Virginia adopted the Uniform Access to Digital Assets Act that allows your executor, administrator, trustee or guardian to manage computer files, web domains and virtual currency. However, it restricts access to social media, email and text messages unless a will or other document specifically grants that access.
What are digital assets?
Before discussing how the new law impacts estate planning and wills, it is important to understand what digital assets actually are. A digital asset may include:
- Credit card rewards
- Digital copyrights or trademarks
- Documents and other information stored in the cloud
- Email accounts
- Online bank or investment accounts
- Online photographs
- Photographs, videos or written works that produce income
- Social media accounts
- Text messages
- Virtual currency
- Websites or blogs whether they generate income or not
Why you need a plan for these assets
So much of life is conducted online today, yet few people have their online assets organized for easy access should something happen to them. If your executor has your login for all financial accounts and creditors, they can immediately get an idea of what steps to take. In addition, creating a plan as part of your estate planning and wills can allow your executor to access email accounts, social media and text messages to notify digital connections that you have passed away.
Creating a plan for digital assets
The first step in creating a plan for digital assets as you work on estate planning and wills is to make a list of all digital assets, their passwords and storage information. Decide what you want to happen to those assets when you die. These should be specific instructions such as wiping the information from your computer or offering some of your digital assets to loved ones. Save the digital asset data on an external drive as well as your personal computer and update the information regularly. Talk to your attorney about the best way to include digital assets in your estate planning and will.
Although most people don’t want to think about leaving things behind, it is important to plan for what will happen to all your assets after you pass away, including your digital assets. Be sure to talk about those assets when speaking to an attorney about your estate planning.