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Should digital assets be included in an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2021 | Estate Planning

The term, digital asset, has exploded recently as our e-life has continued to expand. The term refers to any account that requires a username and password to access or control. And, as with any other asset, these should be accounted for in an estate plan.

Why it matters

Of course, we know that our financial accounts that contain money and cryptocurrencies matter. But, think about the other digital assets that we may not think about, like our water, electric and mortgage accounts. Utilities and bills still need to be paid, even if we are rendered incapacitated. But, if our spouse does not have access, they often will not be allowed to pay them.

It may seem odd, but most creditors and utilities will not allow payments unless the person trying to pay has a username and password, or some other telephonic pin (or catchphrase). This means that, if one is left incapacitated for an extended time or dies unexpectedly, before one’s estate is figured out, family members may be left with a foreclosed home and utilities turned off. This is because it can take months or years to get through the probate process.

Make a list, and check it twice

The first step for our Millville, New Jersey, readers is to make a full list of all of one’s digital assets. Remember, think about every website one accesses that requires a username and password, including cellphone applications. Be sure to include usernames, passwords, account numbers and how to access the account (i.e., URLs, through a cellphone, a third-party platform, etc.).

The next steps

After a full digital asset accounting is done, think about what should happen with those accounts, if one becomes incapacitated or die. Of course, utilities should likely still be paid, but if one subscribes to a game, subscription box, streaming service, perhaps, those should be paused. After all, if one cannot use them, why waist the money on them? Though, if one has an extremely low monthly rate, like a cheap Netflix account, those digital assets may have value. For example, Netflix often grandfathers in lower-rate plans for years. This has value. Who should manage the social media accounts, and how should it be used after death? Are there websites that need to be deleted, discretely? For Millville, New Jersey, residents, digital assets have value, and just like any other asset with value, they should be included in an estate plan. This requires planning.