Just about everything you do leaves a digital trail anymore. Moreover, almost everything important to us can be stored in some type of electronic format. What happens to that digital trail and those electronic files when you die? Do you want someone to be able to access them? Conversely, do you want to ensure that no one can access them? Can anyone access those accounts without your permission after your death? A Carmel estate planning attorney at Frank & Kraft explains why it is important to include your digital assets in your estate plan.
Life in the Digital Age
If you look around you, it is easy to see how dependent we all are on electronics. In fact, the world has become almost entirely digitized for most people. If you stop for a moment and think about it, you will realize just how much of your life is now stored electronically and how many tasks you accomplish electronically. Communication – both business and personal – is likely handled via email, text, or social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Bill paying is probably handled via electronic funds transfer or debit card over the company’s website. You can even send your college age child some extra spending money with the swipe of a finger on your cell phone now.
Moreover, your investment accounts can frequently be accessed online and you may even do most of your trading and investing that way as well. If you own a business, your business probably depends on your internet presence to bring in new clients/customers too. In short, the number of digital assets, records, and accounts you have is undoubtedly more than you realized before you stopped to think about it. Now that you have stopped and consider just how dependent you are on digital assets, you also must realize how important it is to include those assets in your estate plan.
What Digital Assets Do You Own?
When you hear the term “digital asset” you may have some idea what it refers to; however, you likely own more digital assets than you realize. Some common examples include:
- Computing hardware — computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices
- Information or data — stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device. Don’t forget accounts such as Shutterfly, Google photos, and other photo storage sites. For each account, make sure you identify where it is located, your user name, and password.
- Online accounts — email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage. For each of these you will also need to make a note of your user name and password.
- Financial and bill paying accounts — Checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, trading accounts, investment accounts, utility payment accounts, credit card accounts, house and vehicle loans
- Intellectual property — copyrighted materials, trademarks, patents, and any code you may have written and own. Also, don’t forget to include any domain names that you own.
Digital Assets and Indiana Law
Like many states, the State of Indiana is scrambling to try and keep up with the changing asset landscape. One step in that direction occurred in 2016 when Indiana adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (or “UFADAA”). Under UFADAA, a company that stores digital property may provide an online tool that allows the owner of the digital property to specify whether the user’s digital property should be disclosed to others and, if so, to whom. The law allows you to make a provision in your Will, trust, or power of attorney that either allows or prohibits fiduciary access to your digital property. To benefit from the relatively new law, however, you will undoubtedly need to update your estate plan.
Contact a Carmel Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to include your digital assets in your estate plan, contact an experienced Carmel estate planning attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.
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