When a person thinks about estate planning, they probably think of drafting a will, a trust, or other documents such as a power of attorney. But today, we also need to consider what happens to our digital property and assets when we pass. This is what is known as digital estate planning. Our Texas estate planning attorney can answer any questions you may have about the process of organizing these assets.
What Is a Digital Estate Plan?
For many Texans, their property consists of things documented on “paper,” whether bank statements, a deed or title to a property, insurance policies, or similar items. Typically, these items are stored in a person’s filing cabinet, or monthly statements arrive in the mail. But, with the change in technology and how many companies do business, many records have become digital.
We have become so accustomed to handling so much of our lives online that we may not realize how many of our documents only exist in a digital form that may only be accessible for a limited time. With so many accounts online and each company having different document retention policies, only some people have one centralized repository of information for all these assets. You can be one of them too.
This is where a digital estate plan is useful. Such a plan will allow your family to quickly locate your online accounts and access the information in those accounts. This can help tremendously when the person you appoint to handle your estate has to determine if these accounts or assets have any value that may need to be dealt with in probate proceedings. Digital probate assets are handled using the same law as regular probate assets when a Texan’s will is admitted to probate.
Having a digital estate plan can also facilitate the transfer of those assets outside of probate, much as you may be able to leave life insurance or other payable on death accounts to loved ones. But you can only be sure once you make a plan.
How to Make a Digital Estate Plan
The first thing to do is sit down and consider how much of your life is online and what digital assets you own. As part of this process, you should:
- Make a list of your online accounts, such as email accounts, banking, social media, cloud photo libraries, loyalty reward accounts, PayPal, utilities, and insurance. How should these accounts be handled when you pass away?
- Itemize your assets, such as external hard drives, flash drives, tablets, and other digital devices. Consider what you would want to happen to these items and their content.
- Do you own any domain names, websites, or blogs? How can these be accessed, and how should these be handled when you are no longer here?
- Do you have any digital real estate, cryptocurrency accounts, or online assets owned by a business you own? Do any of these assets have value? What would you like to happen to them?
Many other considerations come into play when making a digital estate plan, and these examples are just a few of the items you may need to consider.
Speak With a Digital Estate Planning Professional
If you’re interested in creating a digital estate plan, we invite you to contact our office for legal help. We have helped many clients prepare a digital estate plan that works for them and look forward to helping you with yours.