Thursday, September 12, 2019

What Happens to Your Digital Assets When You Die?

Many people think of digital assets in terms of bitcoin or other digital forms of currency. However, your digital assets encompass a wide variety of accounts, including accounts related to banking, shopping, entertainment, emails, and social media. What happens to your digital assets when you die? Unfortunately, without an estate plan, these assets could be lost forever. A Texas estate planning lawyer can help you protect your digital assets by including them in your will and estate plan.

What Happens to Online Accounts After My Death?

Several factors determine what happens to online accounts after a person’s death, including state laws, the type of account, and the terms of service governing the account. For example, some social media platforms allow you to appoint an agent who is authorized to access and manage your account after your death. Some accounts may have legacy provisions that allow you to dictate what happens to the account upon your death. A few financial accounts have beneficiary options or POD (paid on death) options.

Therefore, the first step in protecting your digital assets after your death is to review each account to determine what will happen to the account after your death and who can have legal access to the account after your death. Even though a loved one has a list of your logins and passwords, that person may not have a legal right to log-in to your accounts.

Digital assets include:

  • Email accounts
  • Financial accounts (PayPal, online bank accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance, tax preparation services, retirement accounts, etc.)
  • Social media accounts
  • Photo and video sharing accounts
  • Online storage accounts
  • Blogs and websites that you manage
  • Digital currency
  • Seller’s accounts with eBay, Amazon, Itsy, etc.
  • Accounts to purchase books, music, and video
  • Any other material that is digital in nature that can be uniquely identified and has value to you or others

Through your will or financial power of attorney, you can give a legal representative the right to access your digital assets. However, a standard or DIY estate forms, including wills and powers of attorney, may not refer to digital assets. An estate planning attorney can help.

How Do I Include Digital Assets in My Estate Plan?

Your estate planning attorney can draft clauses for your will and power of attorney that address your digital assets. The clauses in your estate documents permit your legal representative to access your online accounts and digital assets. Your estate documents also provide instructions for accessing your digital assets while protecting log-in and password information.

Through your estate plan, you direct your legal representative on how to manage each digital asset, including who inherits each asset. Depending on the size of your digital footprint, you may need a comprehensive estate plan for your digital assets. You also need to ensure that you choose a person who has the skills and experience necessary to access and manage digital assets and online accounts.

Contact a Texas Estate Planning Attorney for Help

Estate planning for digital assets has become more common because an increasing number of individuals have substantial digital assets that need to be managed after their death. Schedule a consult with one of our experienced estate planning lawyers today. Our Texas estate planning attorneys can help you review your digital assets and devise an estate plan that protects those assets now and after your death.

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