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Include the digital realm in asset protection planning

For most New Jersey residents, the digital world is a part of their daily life. We use the Internet for shopping, communication, storage of files and photos and more. An increasing portion of our lives is stored online, and that trend seems destined to continue. When considering estate planning needs, many people fail to recognize the importance of including their digital holdings within their asset protection strategy.

In fact, many people are not even aware of the scope of their digital assets. We have grown so accustomed to holding our wealth in a more tangible form that it can be difficult to appreciate the value of those things that exist primarily online. Examples vary from online banking accounts and frequent flyer miles to things of a more sentimental nature, such as digital photos or scanned family documents.

Neglecting to include these items within one’s estate plan can lead to the loss of these assets. Loved ones can have difficulty accessing all of one’s online accounts, and in many cases are not even aware of their existence. One of the first steps in addressing this issue is to make a comprehensive list of all online assets, as well as the user names and passwords associated with each account. Keep this list in a secure place, and include a copy with other estate planning documents.

It is also possible to include digital assets within one’s New Jersey will. For example, online photos can be left to the family member most likely to archive and use these sentimental items. Frequent flyer and repeat stay points with hotel chains can be given to a loved one who travels. As for online bank accounts and other investments, these can be dealt with in much the same way as funds held within brick and mortar establishments. The important thing is that these types of assets are included within the larger asset protection planning process.

Source: PBS NewsHour, "Dead and online: What happens to your digital estate when you die?", , July 12, 2014

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