Communications technology has become increasingly popular and, as a result, digital assets are a more common type of property. Cell phones first became available to the public in 1983. Now, even grade school children have a smartphone. most of us would consider our cell phones to be one of our most important possessions. The vast majority of people rely almost entirely on their cell phones to communicate, conduct business, store sensitive information, and much more. Although the cell phone or tablet themselves are not considered digital assets, the information those phones and tablets contain is a digital asset. Cell phones are also a way to access other digital assets you might own. Our Los Alamitos estate planning lawyers want you to know how to incorporate those digital assets in your estate planning.
The future of digital estate planning
Creating a personalized estate plan has become more and more important these days. It would be a mistake to overlook the need to include digital estate planning in your overall planning endeavor. What is a digital asset? A digital asset is basically anything that is either based on a computer or involves the internet. Common examples are email accounts and online businesses. Who will inherit those unique assets when you pass away? Better yet, why is it important? Our Los Alamitos estate planning lawyers can explain the importance of these unique assets and the issues they bring.
What does digital estate planning involve?
Digital estate planning involves issues such as how to protect the assets contained on a cell phone or laptop; who will have the authority to access your email accounts and online bank accounts. More importantly, who will have the basic knowledge that these various digital assets even exist. Consider this example. You sell items online using an eBay or PayPal account, which is linked to your bank account.
Someone needs to know how to access those accounts and be allowed to transfer money if you become incapacitated, for instance. Even after you die, your executor needs to know which accounts exist and how to access them. You also need to decide who will ultimately inherit them. This is what a digital estate plan is for.
Estate planning methods have certainly changed
Historically, an estate has consisted of a will, trusts, power of attorney appointment, life insurance policies, and any property that a person owned, including financial accounts. Back then, paper documentation was the only method of recording these estate planning tools and they would often be collected in a folder in a safe or desk drawer. That way, family members would easily be able to find the information after the person passed away. Other information, like bank statements and bills, could be obtained through the mail.
Now, however, most of this information is routinely digitized. So your financial, business, personal, and administrative documents will likely exist in a digital form. While many people manage their finances, businesses, and personal lives online, very few actually have organized or centralized accounts. This can mean that managing and distributing these digital assets will be very difficult after the owner has died, and can lead to confusion, or even worse, denial of access. If you find yourself in this situation, let our Los Alamitos estate planning lawyers help.
Why digital access is important even after death
Even though you may have a business with an actual building, you are certain to still have some digital assets that are tied to that business, such as online access to a bank account. In that situation, there is still significant value in being able to access the online components of your accounts because they can provide easy access to key information that may be necessary for settling your estate.
What can a digital estate plan really do for my family?
There are many ways a digital estate plan can be very helpful to your family. Here are a few examples:
- Locate any accounts you have online
- Access those accounts or the information in those accounts
- Determine if your digital property has any financial value that needs to be reported and perhaps submitted to probate
- Distribute or transfer any digital assets to the appropriate parties
- Avoid online identity theft
Join us for a free seminar! If you have questions regarding digital assets, or any other estate planning needs, please contact the experienced estate planning lawyers at the Schomer Law Group for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.