Estate Planning – Digital Assets

The phrase “digital assets” makes me uncomfortable because it sounds like a description for a discrete pile of “stuff,” that is dealt with on a ‘one and done’ basis. Digital assets are actually more and more our entire, daily world! Digital assets include bank accounts, photos on a cloud, e-books, credit card accounts, insurance policies (homeowner’s, car, life), utility bills, cell phones, tablets, laptops, investment accounts, music streaming services, etc. – in other words everything!

Back “in the day” we could go to a desk drawer, bookcase shelf, or photo album and find all of the above…and TOUCH them. The things that make up our “asset universe,” haven’t changed, but the form that it can be accessed, seen and “touched” has changed.

If we are injured, sick, detained on a trip longer than expected, or pass-away how will our digital universe be timely managed if someone doesn’t have that “drawer” to check or they can see it but can’t get to it?

Provisions for digital asset planning are a crucial part of two planning documents – Durable Power of Attorney and the Will. A specific person is given legal permission to access your digital universe if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated, or when you pass. The NY Times and WSJ have written on this subject.

Now that we’re all geared up to manage these assets, where do we put them? I can’t write them down on a piece of paper – I have too many, passwords change too often, gggrrrrr!

Don’t despair, there are many online repositories for this information, many allow us to name an “in case of emergency” person to get access – this should be your Power of Attorney and/or the person you named as Personal Representative (f/k/a Executor) for your Will. PC Magazine just did good comparison.

This can feel overwhelming but with a little focus and good online repository (yup another digital asset), you can create that “electronic drawer,” for anyone needing to step into your digital shoes.

Having said all this the estate planning field and the digital universe are still working through “terms and conditions….” so this is an evolving field. Massachusetts is working on adopting some form of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.

Stay Tuned!