As more and more of our lives are put online, estate planners are grappling with how to advise clients to secure and transfer their virtual estates — the body of nontangible, digital assets people create and store on their computers and the Internet.
Technology and cyberspace have definitely changed the way we conduct business and communicate with others. Have you considered how this will impact your Estate Plan? What happens to all of your emails, passwords and other “virtual” property when you are gone?
Dealing with digital assets can be a tricky business, often in ways that aren’t readily apparent. Nevertheless, digital assets are both vital and newsworthy topics for estate planning. For example, consider an article by SmartMoney titled “Protecting You Virtual Estate” and the similar article by The Wall Street Journal titled “With Estate Planning, Don’t Forget Virtual Assets.” Both are worthy of your attention.
Digital assets can range from personal data held in social websites to intellectual property, or even domain names. Then again and more importantly, a growing majority of people do their banking, investing, and tax-paying online. Is this starting to hit closer to home now?
Few states have laws in place to account for the postmortem transfer of digital assets, so careful planning is important. Don’t forget to protect your “virtual” property just as you would your tangible assets. You wouldn’t want valuable information to be lost to your heirs.
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SmartMoney (July 25, 2012), “Protecting You Virtual Estate”
The Wall Street Journal (July 28, 2012) “With Estate Planning, Don’t Forget Virtual Assets.”