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Planning for Your Digital Assets

While many people are aware of the need for an estate plan, or at least the importance of arranging various affairs for when they are no longer alive, most of us overlook the relatively modern need to arrange our digital affairs as well.

In a 2011 McAfee study, Americans valued the contents of their various digital devices at roughly $55,000 – a figure that not only represents the value of the media purchased, but also the sentimental value of personal works, various personal information, and access to personal accounts.

Estate planning for digital property is becoming more and more common, but for the sake of planning, some of your digital assets may include:

• Photos
• Music
• Ebooks
• Videos
• Social Network Accounts
• Email Accounts
• Bank and Billing Accounts
• Websites and Blogs
• Online Shopping Accounts

With all of these various pieces of digital property, many of the same basic needs apply when determining your estate plan. Whether this property is online or stored locally on a computer or digital device, you’ll want to consider the following:

• In the event of your death, who will have access to your accounts?

• How will your executor or agent access your files and accounts?

• How will your digital assets be transferred to any beneficiaries?

• How will fiduciaries know how and where to find all of your digital property?

In determining the answers to these important questions, it will be helpful to first create an inventory of your digital assets (at least the digital assets you deem valuable). This may require some searching, but you’ll want to be as thorough as possible to make sure all of your bases are covered. Make a list that includes usernames, passwords, and any other supplemental information that an agent would need to know to access your accounts and/or data.

Once you’ve created your inventory, you can then make decisions about what you would like to happen with your digital assets, and include these wishes in your estate plan in detail.
Because so much of our information is online nowadays, it is extremely important to plan ahead and include this digital portion of our lives in the estate planning process – your beneficiaries will be glad you did.

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