- Estate Planning for Digital Assets
- November 8, 2013 | Author: Slone P. Isselhard
- Law Firm: Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. - Chicago Office
According to a 2011 survey administered by McAfee, Inc., the average Internet user possesses over $37,000 in digital assets. These assets include pictures, videos, documents, bank accounts and music that are stored in online accounts, on a computer or other device, or in the Cloud. We have been drafting our most recent trust documents to include a schedule A listing these assets as trust assets, so that your trustee will be in charge of administering the assets. However, in order to do so in accordance with your wishes, it is best to leave some instructions and information for your trustee. The four-step process below can ease administration of digital assets:
1. Identify and inventory your digital assets in a document that can be easily located by your trustee. Ideally, insert this document into the estate plan binder provided to you upon completion of your estate plan documents.
2. After inventorying your assets, consider how you would like each asset to be managed or distributed by your trustee. For example, do you want your Facebook page to remain open as an “In Memoriam” page after your death? Would you like your trustee to have access to Google accounts such as Gmail or Google Drive? Do you want your trustee to have access to your iTunes account? Keep in mind that the items you purchased on iTunes are not considered “yours,” but are merely licensed to you, so it is unclear whether your beneficiaries could “inherit” them. This is a developing area in the law so it will be interesting to see how iTunes treats this within the next few years.
3. Next, list the username and password next to assets you would like your trustee to have access to, such as bank accounts, email accounts and Facebook, among others. If you have a security code to access your computer or other devices, list those codes for your trustee. Be sure to include as much information as necessary for how to access accounts you want your trustee to be able to utilize.
4. Be sure to update passwords and/or other access information as they change over time. Revisit the list on a yearly or biyearly basis to make sure it is up to date.
Your trustee may also be able to request access from companies managing the accounts. However, because the law on this issue is so unsettled at present, some companies will not provide the trustee with access, but will simply close the account.
Therefore, your best bet is to provide passwords rather than to rely on the company to provide access, which it may ultimately deny.
Another option for digital asset estate planning is to work with a company that provides digital asset storage services for ease of transfer upon a client’s death. Examples of such companies include Legacy Locker, Asset Lock and Secured Safe. The only issue with these companies is that they sometimes change hands (and therefore policies) due to the fact that they are still new and relatively untested. However, they do provide another option for handling digital assets.
Whether you decide to use a password/instruction list or a digital asset storage company, be sure to provide some guidance for your trustee in administering these assets.