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Digital assets and estate planning considerations

by | Jun 16, 2015 | Estate Planning | 0 comments

Florida residents establish their digital footprint when they create social media profiles, purchase items online and post entries on a blog. However, not accounting for these digital assets can potentially cause issues after a person’s death.

Digital assets comprise the information that individuals record and store in an electronic format. They encompass such things as personal photos, email correspondence and social networks. While these assets may not be worth much on a monetary level, the misappropriation of them can cause significant risks. As more people use digital information and assets, these need to be accounted for in estate planning. Failing to consider digital assets can result in online fraud and theft. Business executives expose their employers to a greater degree of risk if they leave their digital information uncensored and easily available. Likewise, the owner of a small business may find trade secrets stolen if emails are obtained.

Digital assets can create complexities in an estate plan. One crucial consideration is whether a personal representative will be able to locate and access all digital assets. Unlike with other assets, digital assets do not usually come with a detailed paper trail, like a checking account or retirement account would. Without being able to locate and access these assets, a personal representative will be unable to transfer them or dispose of them according to the testator’s wishes. Accessibility is commonly an issue because many online companies do not permit the transfer of such assets. Some even include prohibitions on transferring such assets in their terms of service.

Individuals who are concerned about how their digital assets will be treated after death may choose to discuss the issue with an estate planning lawyer. Through such a discussion, they may learn about ways that they can protect these types of assets through properly-prepared wills or other estate planning documents.