Estate planning and the storage of digital assets

When most people think about digital assets, they consider the sentimental value of those items. This includes family photos that are stored online, blog entries and social media postings. While many New Jersey family members would love to have access to those memories, there is another side of estate planning that concerns digital assets that hold significant monetary value.

For example, consider a songwriter who has spent her career compiling a body of work. Some of the resulting songs may have been sold, and each sale will come with a distinct body of rights to use. Some sales will result in royalty payments, which can continue for a long period of time. Those royalties can be part of an individual’s estate, so that surviving loved ones can profit from the work of that artist.

However, a songwriter may also have a significant volume of other work that has not yet been marketed, or pieces that are unfinished. These works also hold value, but many of these types of resources are stored online. If family members are unable to access those files, the value contained within could be lost.

New Jersey residents who have sizable digital assets should think about the best way to integrate those files into the larger estate planning process. It is important to include these assets into one’s will and to discuss the matter with the intended heirs. Many families also consider storing these files on another type of media, such as an external hard drive or discs.

Source: brainerddispatch.com, “Commentary: Estate planning for digital assets”, Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb, Nov. 13, 2015

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