In this blog entry in our ongoing series on understanding estate planning, we are going to look at the issue of digital estate plans. In recent years, digital estate plans have become more and more important as the prominence of digital assets and technology continues to grow in our day-to-day lives. To better understand what these plans do, how they work, and why they matter, let’s take a look at some essential topics.
A digital asset can be almost anything you keep on your computer, cell phone, the Internet, or on any other form of digital device. A digital device is something that stores or communicates information, such as phones, e-book readers, computers, tablets, etc.
Digital assets include everything from important documents that only exist on your computer, to personal photos you’ve taken with a digital camera or your cell phone, to passwords and access information you use to control or view your digital assets. Digital assets can also include more complicated digital properties, such as online bank accounts or online businesses.
Digital Estate Plans
Digital estate plans are simply collections of tools you create that will allow you to control what happens to your digital assets in the future. Like estate plans in general, a digital estate plan looks towards your possible incapacitation, and eventual death, and allows you to make choices about what you want to happen to your digital assets under those circumstances.
For example, let’s say that you become incapacitated due to a terminal medical condition. When this happens, someone will have to take control of your assets while you are unable to manage them yourself. Will that person know what kind of digital assets you have? Will that person know how to access those assets? Will the person who manages your affairs know what you would have wanted?
Digital estate plans allow you to answer these, and other, questions about your digital assets in light of your incapacitation or death.
Digital Estate Plans and Estate Planning
A digital estate plan is not so different from an ordinary estate plan. Digital estate plans rely on the same basic tools that you will create when you craft a comprehensive estate plan. For example, with your digital estate plan you’ll most likely use a durable power of attorney to appoint someone to manage your assets in the event you become incapacitated. That person, known as your agent, will have the legal authority to manage your digital assets. Further, your digital estate plan will contain details about the kinds of digital assets you have, how to control them, and how you want them distributed in the event of your death.
Parman & Easterday