By Matthew T. McClintock, J.D.
Vice President, Education, WealthCounsel
What’s going to happen to your Facebook account when you die? Or all the songs you’ve downloaded from iTunes?
As digital assets become more common for all of us, it’s important to incorporate them into estate plans. Unfortunately, as was recently explored in a Denver Business Journal article featuring WealthCounsel, that’s not always easy to do.
According to a 2013 McAfee study, the average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. That value includes purchased movies, books, music and games as well as personal memories, communications, personal records, hobbies and career information. Of those surveyed by the study, 55 percent said they store assets that would be impossible to recreate, re-download or repurchase.
Unfortunately, those assets are increasingly at risk of being lost when the account owner dies. Many digital accounts are subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can often make it difficult or impossible for surviving loved ones to access them. Additionally, state and federal laws could put friends and relatives who try to log on to your accounts at risk of violating anti-hacking and privacy statutes.
Initiatives are under way to put more consumer-friendly laws in place regarding digital assets. Until then, though, it’s important to incorporate detailed directions and information surrounding your digital assets into your estate plan. Here are four steps to take now:
Finally, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you’ve covered all your bases when it comes to digital asset planning.