If you want your daughter to remember you fondly, ensure that she still has access to her favorite boy band.
I was about to speak with my friend and author Peggy Hoyt recently about how happy I was that I completed my estate plan. I figured that getting an estate planning expert and author of books on the subject to “bless” my intentions would provide a level of confidence that I had considered everything.
“Dad, what happens to your iTunes songs and Kindle books if you pass on?”
No one can make you stop and reconsider every action you’ve ever done in life like your children.
When I informed my lovely daughter, who seemed to ask the question with less remorse about my demise, and more concern about ensuring that she continues to have access to her One Direction songs and Divergent e-books, that I didn’t know, it seemed that the call to Peggy would have to wait.
Did I need to be concerned about this?
Do I need to consider my digital assets into my estate plan?
A recent article on the ally blog points out that, “Estate planning of digital assets is a relatively new focus for concern for both consumers and their attorneys — and something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Your heirs may not be able to find or access all of your digital assets if you don’t include them in your estate plan.”
The article states that 87% of adults use the Internet and I can’t speak for others, but I know that I have spend lots of money on songs and books that exist only in the Internet, accessible only with my password and personal information. Shouldn’t these be considered assets and something that falls under the purview of estate planning?
In the article, James Lamm, an estate planning and tax attorney at Gray Plant Mooty law firm in Minneapolis, Minn. said, “Digital assets hold both financial and sentimental value to family and friends that should be addressed in the estate planning and administration process.”
Lamm recommends that estate planning include a thorough and rigorous review of identifying a person’s digital properties and identifying which of them are “valuable or significant.”
“Additional obstacles with digital property that you don’t have with traditional property are passwords, encryption, computer crime laws, and data privacy laws. Any one of them can make it practically impossible to do anything with the digital property unless you’ve planned ahead,” Lamm said.
Listing Web assets, passwords, and all online accounts is a tedious exercise, but if digital assets exist there, you need to consider them or they will disappear into the ether, when you, ahem, do the same.
A necessary resource to assist you is the process is an article in Estate Planning magazine from May 2013, which provides a clear outline of what items need to be considered. These include consideration of your email information, social-networking site information, blogs you maintain, online financial sites, digital photos and more.
Another resource is Lamm’s website, DigitalPassing.com, where he provides great advice on the subject including explanations of the Terms of Services contracts from various online providers and how they may impact the ability for fiduciaries to access this information, even if they have the password information.
He reports that laws are changing as more people and authorities recognize that digital assets are part of a person’s estate. It’s an area that is worth watching. The ally article states that “Lamm stresses that until the laws are changed, taking the steps to safeguard your digital assets isn’t infallible. But it will make it easier to have your wishes followed if you put them in writing.”
Obviously I still have more work to do on my estate plan and with the consideration of digital assets, it’s clear that what we know about estate planning is changing. Well at least, my estate plan will look a lot different from what I originally thought and because of my book and song collections, clearly unique and different from others.
In her book, “What’s the Deal with Estate Planning?” (published by People Tested Publications, which I have ownership in), Peggy Hoyt makes clear that, “A primary goal of estate planning should be to create a plan that works-for you and your family. No two families are alike and no two plans will ever be alike.”
So before I consider my estate plan complete, I’ll have to consider those One Direction songs. Just don’t make me listen to them.
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