These days more and more of our lives have gone online. For example, where we used to have shelves of books and CDs, now many people carry their music and book collections in digital form on portable devices. In addition, financial assets like bank accounts and vast amounts of personal information can be stored online.
In the estate planning field these are called “digital assets” and they raise a lot of new questions about what happens to our online identities when we're gone. Many states have not yet passed laws governing what happens to online accounts – in fact, it's unclear whether they even could, Many websites have their own policies governing who may access accounts when.
Some examples of digital assets may include:
- photos and videos
- tax documents like e-filed returns
- arrangements to pay bills online
- money in a Paypal or Amazon Payments account
- domain names and blogs
- airline frequent flier programs
A recent study found that many people have digital assets valued at up to $55,000. If your assets were stored in a traditional bank account they would probably be allocated to the person of your choice per your estate plan after your death. Wouldn't you want to have the same control over your accounts that live online?
The best way to ensure that your assets, whether physical or online, are handled according to your wishes is to craft a thorough, sound estate plan. This may include a will, trusts or even special documents containing online account information and who may access those accounts. Consider getting in touch with an estate planning attorney who can help you be ready for any contingency.