Any information that a New York resident stores online could be considered a digital asset. It is estimated that the average American has $55,000 in assets that are held online. At any given time, a person can have up to 100 or more accounts that are secured by a username and password. Examples of online properties include email accounts, bank accounts and social media profiles.
There could be many problems associated with not accounting for digital assets during the estate planning process. For instance, a decedent may be tagged or mentioned on social media accounts. Each time this happens, it could trigger sadness or grief among close friends and family members. Social media or other account credentials could also be accessed by thieves who use them to accrue new charges on a credit card or take money out of a bank account.
Ideally, an estate owner will let a spouse or other trusted individual know where account passwords and other important information is stored. There are digital tools available to keep this data organized and in a secure location. When an estate owner dies, the service will send an email telling the authorized person how to access it. Alternatively, an individual can write a letter informing family members how to access accounts and what to do with them.
There are many ways to address assets in an estate plan. For instance, a will creator could create a list of important physical and digital properties and where an executor can find them. Others might choose to distribute assets to cement their legacies and minimize estate taxes. An attorney could explain the different methods that a client may take to meet their estate planning goals.