As technology has advanced over the years, and generations who have been steeped in it become older, the issue of how to handle digital assets in an estate impacts more people than ever. Estate planning is important, and how to handle everything from property and other tangible, real-world assets is well documented, but what about non-physical, often internet-based assets? How can these be incorporated into an estate and handled after a person passes away. Everything from “digital property” (e.g., website domains, etc.) to social media accounts are the property of a person, and they can be passed on and dealt with after their death, provided they are included in a will or estate.
If you have digital assets and are in the process of estate planning, here is how you can properly handle these assets.
Which Assets are Included in Digital Estate Planning
There are many digital assets that can be included in an estate. When planning out your estate, make sure you create a documented list of all the digital assets you own, these can include:
- Cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, etc.)
- NFTs (Non-fungible tokens)
- Domains and websites
- Online subscription-based accounts (paid or unpaid)
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Digital storage accounts (photos, videos, files, etc.)
- Loyalty benefits programs (if they can be transferred)
- Digital copyrights to intellectual property
Once you have a complete list of all the digital assets you own, you can then decide which ones will be closed and which will be passed on to beneficiaries.
Barriers to Access
Most digital assets will have certain levels of security and other barriers of access. It’s essential to make sure these are not a hinderance to beneficiaries once they are passed on. It can be very difficult to secure access to digital assets after a person passes away, but this can be avoided if you have compiled passwords, answers to security questions, information regarding two-factor authentication, etc. These should be included in an estate’s information so that the people who receive these assets can gain access to them without running into any issues.
It’s also important to understand the criminal and data privacy laws that protect these types of assets, both on the federal and state level. Consult with your attorney on the best way to legally pass these assets on to other people.
Appoint and Executor and Get Bonded
Since digital assets fall under property you own, they can be added to your estate, which will be overseen by the executor you choose. Make sure that the person you have chosen to execute the terms of your estate understands these digital assets and how they are to be passed on to your beneficiaries. As in many cases, the executor will need to obtain a surety bond (known as an executor bond or fiduciary bond) in order to take on the responsibility of managing your estate.
Surety bonds can be tricky to obtain. If you are soon to be the executor of an estate and need to obtain a bond, get in touch with the surety bond experts at The Patrick J. Thomas Agency today.
Disclaimer: this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal counsel, please contact an attorney directly.