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What Happens to Digital Assets on Death?

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What Happens to Digital Assets on Death?
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If you haven’t properly accounted for these things, your heirs may not be able to access these assets when you’re gone.

You’ve probably thought about who will inherit your home, your great-grandmother’s jewelry collection and your collection of superhero comics. However,what about your digital assets, asks a recent article from Coast Reporter, “Make sure your estate plan considers your digital assets.”

Digital assets may have significant value. Digital assets include cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), domain names, digital photos, digital rights to literary content, musical compositions, blog content, online video channels where your content is generating revenue, online gaming, digital online betting accounts, PayPal accounts or even prepaid subscriptions to online content or goods and services.

If your estate plan hasn’t adequately accounted for these assets, your heirs may be unable to access them. Do you and your executor even know what digital assets you own?

Having a list of your digital assets is a start. However, this doesn’t mean your executor can access the assets after your death. Photos and videos stored online may be inaccessible, social media accounts may stay online forever and heirs might not receive money or other assets you intended them to have.

The first hurdle is knowing the passwords for your accounts. Some can be accessed by cybersecurity professionals, like breaking into your phone or a laptop. However, others, like cryptocurrency keys, could be lost forever. Unless you’ve given explicit authorization to someone to access your accounts, they could violate data privacy laws, a criminal offense in most states.

Here’s a game plan for your digital assets and estate plan:

Document digital assets. Know what you own and understand that there’s a difference between owning a digital asset and owning a non-transferable license to use the asset.

Back up your digital assets. Ensure that all online documents, data and assets are backed up to the cloud and store them on a local computer or external hard drive, so your family can access them with fewer obstacles.

Leave digital assets to your spouse. This will avoid the assets being taxed and give the surviving spouse time to plan for the tax liabilities upon their death with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Provide authorization in your will. Update your will so your executor can bypass, reset or recover passwords. If your digital assets are significant enough, talk with your estate planning attorney about having a separate will to deal with digital assets and name an executor knowledgeable about digital assets for the second will.

Check-in regularly. Digital assets are still new for most people, so speak with your estate planning attorney to be sure your wills and powers of attorney reflect any changes in the law or your digital assets.

To learn more about estate planning in the East Valley, Gilbert, Mesa and Queen Creek, schedule your free consultation with Attorney Jake Carlson by using one of the links above.

Reference: Coast Reporter (June 21, 2023) “Make sure your estate plan considers your digital assets”

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