Planning For Digital Assets

A lot has changed since the turn of the century, and one thing that has impacted nearly everyone in our country, is the digital world we now live in. The first edition of iTunes came out in 2001, Gmail and Facebook in 2004, Twitter 2006 and the first iPhone in 2007. But what ARE these accounts that we have online? Traditionally there are two types of property: 1) Real property, that is the ground and dirt and structures on it, and 2) Tangible Property, that is everything else- things from financial accounts and money, to your tools and jewelry. But you cannot pick up and hold your Twitter account so common sense tends to think it cannot be tangible property. What we are encountering is a new area of the law that is very fluid, and that is digital assets.

Just like you need to plan for your estate with wills, powers of attorney, trusts, etc., it is increasingly important to also plan for your digital assets. Your named agent under your powers of attorney, trustee of trusts, and executors of wills, need to know about your digital assets and how to access them. A person today has an average of 19 separate accounts that require passwords, and these are not just for your email accounts, but things like your bank accounts, mortgage accounts, etc. It is now common to not receive hard copies of statements from your financial institutions, but only emailed ones. If no one knows your email account, or knows you receive your statements online, it could take quite some time for someone to finally figure out about your accounts if something were to happen to you.

The key to this is communication, be it simply writing down your accounts and passwords on a piece of paper, or there are also apps that cater to this very issue. Look at programs like True Key, Dashlane and LastPass, to see how they can help you.