When many New Jersey residents consider their estate planning needs, they focus on traditional types of assets. We think about retirement savings, investments, cash and property. Few people take the time to consider how less tangible assets, such as those that exist in the digital realm, should be factored into the process. However, in today’s technological world, even a simple estate plan should address digital wealth.
Digital assets include property that is housed online. Examples include digital photographs, online bank accounts and writing displayed on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. While some of these assets may hold very little monetary value, they often have considerable sentimental value for those left behind. However, without proper planning, loved ones can find it difficult to impossible to access the accounts that hold one’s digital assets.
The law is of little help, as very little legislation has been created to address how an individual’s digital assets are to be handled after death. This leaves loved ones at the mercy of each account’s policies in regard to who can access the information and when. Not to mention the fact that many of us have no idea of the scope of our loved ones’ online holdings. The end result can be the loss of not only wealth, but of images and writing that the family would love to have.
The best way to address digital assets within a simple estate plan is to begin by creating a master list of all online accounts. Include the location of the account, the user name and password, and a brief description of the type of data stored within. Once that list has been compiled, a copy should be placed with other estate planning documents, so that the people tasked with handling one’s estate can access this information when the time comes. By taking this simple step, New Jersey residents can help their loved ones feel certain that all assets have been accounted for, regardless of where they are stored.
Source: news8000.com, “Digital estate planning, how to manage your assets before you die”, Keely Arthur, May 3, 2015