We have previously written on the importance of digital assets in estate planning ("Texas estate planning should include digital life," June 12, 2013). With digital media such a norm these days, this is still a crucial step in the estate planning process. This is true regardless of the extent of one's digital assets.
Digital assets include anything from e-mail and bank accounts to social media profiles, such as Facebook. Many of these assets have no cash value. However, they still likely hold a certain level of sentimental value.
When digital assets are not included in one's life plan, it can create more stress for family members that are grieving. This is probably the last thing anyone wants. However, with a carefully executed strategy, loved ones can obtain access to online accounts, pictures and other files easily.
First, Texas residents need to identify all of their online accounts, including subscriptions and memberships. Make sure that URLs, user names, passwords and other important log-in and security question information are all included. Compile this all into a single document or spreadsheet. Next, a trustee will need to be appointed and provided instructions (generally in one's will) as to how to access this information and what to do with it once accessed.
An adequate estate plan will address all parts of one's estate, including assets with little to no monetary value. Texas residents need to maintain an organized catalog of all of their digital assets for a smooth estate planning process. It is also crucial to update the information frequently to ensure that loved ones, beneficiaries and trustees are able to access the digital assets one wishes to distribute.
Source: CNBC, "Protect your digital assets after your death", Thomas Henske, May 19, 2014