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How a digital estate plan can protect valuable online assets

This article looks at the two types of digital assets and why ensuring access to them for heirs is so important.

Digital assets, such as social media accounts, domain names, and even cryptocurrencies, can have both significant sentimental and financial value. Just like any other type of property, digital assets can be bequeathed to heirs in a will. However, as Fox Business reports, digital asset law is evolving as are the ways that digital companies control access to such assets. For these reasons, an estate plan should address the unique challenges posed by digital assets so that one's heirs are not cut off from the property that has been promised them in a will.

Why digital assets are different

Digital assets generally fall into one of two categories: economic and sentimental. Economic assets are those that have a clear monetary value, such as a digital wallet, cryptocurrency, or a registered domain name. Sentimental digital assets typically have little monetary value, but they do hold personal value for friends and family of the deceased. Sentimental assets would usually include such items as photos, videos, emails, and instant messages, particularly on social media.

Like any asset, digital assets can be included in a will and promised to one's heirs. However, ensuring that those heirs are actually able to take possession of those assets is complicated. Most digital assets are password protected. While most companies nowadays have protocols for granting access to digital accounts to heirs, the process can be difficult and time consuming, especially if there is no will. As CNBC notes, in cases involving cryptocurrencies, accessing those cryptocurrencies can be almost impossible unless heirs already know the keys associated with these assets.

Ensuring easier access

Given the unique challenges that digital assets pose, it is important to have a digital asset estate plan. Such a plan will make it easier for heirs to keep track of and access online property. An inventory of digital assets is a necessity. Unlike physical assets, which often reside at a single property, digital assets are harder to track down. Having a list of these assets will help heirs know what digital assets are actually part of the estate.

Heirs will also need a way to recover passwords. An online safe is likely the most secure mechanism for storing passwords. A list of passwords that is secured in a physical safe or with an attorney is another option, although it is important to remember to update this list whenever a password is changed.

Help with estate planning

Estate planning, as the above article shows, is evolving. However, the goal of estate planning remains the same for most people: to ensure that one's friends and family are provided for after one's death. An expe rienced attorney can help individuals with their estate planning needs, including with advising them on how to deal with significant and complex assets.

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