May 06, 2016
The concept of digital assets is fairly new in the estate-planning process. While it’s entirely possible to protect and pass down your digital assets, the realities of online life today do not make it easy. And due to the commonsense steps we all take to keep our digital assets safe in life, it can be difficult or even impossible for family members and fiduciaries to inventory and distribute them after death.
Digital assets can include any electronic record, including:
- Contact lists
- Text communications
- Social media posts
- Bill-pay services
- Tax-relevant documents
- Convertible cryptocurrencies (there are 500, including Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Dash, etc.)
- Unpublished personal and purchased visual artwork
- Family photographs and videos
- Purchased movie, music and literary collections
- Online games, including game winnings and possessions
- Browser, purchase, travel histories
- Domain-name ownership and other documents stored on the cloud
A major frustration for anyone trying to organize a person’s estate is that 55 percent of the U.S. population has no will, according to a survey on estate planning conducted in March 2007 by Harris Interactive. An unknown subset of that group has assembled some semblance of directives, but they are stored digitally — along with all the other hard-to-access assets.