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Estate Planning For Your Digital Assets. They Are More Valuable More Than You Think

  • By: Christopher Benson
  • Published: March 5, 2014

Most people do not want to be a “bother” to their spouse, children, family and friends. Most people want to protect their assets and have things handled efficiently and in a cost effective manner. I believe in my 27 years of law practice that I have never had a client say “I want this to be complicated, take a lot of time, be a huge hassle and be really expensive.”

The purpose of the guidelines I post is to help people think about ways to accomplish their goals efficiently and in a cost effective manner.

On average, people in America have more than $54,000 in digital assets. That could be a Kindle library, iTunes purchases of games, movies or music, online bank accounts, PayPal accounts or other online currencies. Do you know what your digital assets are worth? If you died, what would happen to them and assets that aren’t worth anything but are important to you, like social media accounts?

Estate plans aren’t just for the items you can hold in your hands. Digital items have a place in your estate plan, too. Without a plan, your family could face roadblocks when trying to close accounts, access important information or documents, and maintain privacy after you have passed.

Ownership of these online is complicated by the fact that each account is governed by its own terms-of-service agreement, and the fact that most state laws regarding digital assets and who can access them are behind the times. Given the current circumstances, a digital estate plan may not guarantee your wishes are fully carried out, but it’s a start.

First, make an inventory of your online accounts, complete with logins and passwords. Keep it updated and store it somewhere secure, but not in your will, since it will become public record after your death. Next, indicate what you want done with each account after your death. Third, find out if any of your accounts offer estate-planning services and decide if you want to take advantage of them. Fourth, designate a digital executor. This person should be someone who is tech savvy and will understand your wishes without needing any tutorials.

Over the past 27 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped more than 800 clients prepare and utilize simple and effective planning techniques to protect them and their families in order to avoid probate, save estate taxes, save money and save added emotional burden that comes from long term illness and/or death of a family member. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation to find out how we can help you and your family.

Christopher Benson

About the Author Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More