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Don't forget about digital assets in your estate plan

When you are creating your estate plan, you are likely thinking about the various things you need to protect. Things like money, properties, items with sentimental value, your medical needs and access to your financial records all probably come to mind.

You are probably not thinking about your digital assets, though. Digital assets often get overlooked in estate plans, perhaps because they may not be significant or because we don't think of them as something worth protecting. However, the things we keep online and in digital format can prove to be far more valuable and important than you may think.

For instance, let's look at some of the more common assets we keep or build online.

  • Digital financial accounts: Many people have accounts they use for digital financial transactions, including eBay, PayPal, Bitcoin wallets and other services that enable you to pay or receive money online. You may also have auto-pay accounts in place that can continue to pay out until you stop them.
  • Online presence: Having someone manage things like your social media accounts, blogs and online stores may not be high on your priority list, but it can be of great relief to your loved ones to know that someone is taking care of these things.
  • Your privacy: Our lives and activities online depend on the ability to protect our privacy with passwords and usernames. However, when you are gone, you will need someone to deal with your emails, destroy sensitive material on your computer or phone and save things like photos. In order to this, you will have to provide someone with the information they need to access everything.
  • Irreplaceable work: As discussed in this Wall Street Journal article, if you write, design apps, create artwork or keep electronic copies of critical documents on a password-protected device, all of it can be lost if you do not share the password with someone or keep it backed up in a place accessible only to the right people.

Unless you take steps to name someone in your estate plan who will manage and control these assets, you could wind up leaving your money, privacy, life's work and digital footprint in virtual no man's land. To avoid this, you can work with your estate planning attorney to address your wishes for your digital life and examine the various steps you can take to protect them.

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