The Internet is causing a shift in where we find, share, and store information as we adapt to the recent “all things digital” mindset. Much of the information stored online includes financial and personal information that could potentially impact your estate planning. If you store financial and personal information online, then you may want to consider how your estate plan addresses your digital assets.
Here are a few points you should know about digital assets and estate planning in Tennessee.
What kinds of digital assets can be included in an estate plan, like a will, in Tennessee?
Digital assets can take on many different forms. Examples can include any of the following:
- Financial accounts, like banks, credit unions, retirement savings, credit card accounts, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, employee benefit accounts, Social Security, PayPal
- Online merchant accounts or web addresses, like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Wal-Mart, Zappos, Macy's, Target, and Chadwicks
- Other online accounts for things like memberships or charities
- Email accounts, like Yahoo!, Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, and employer e-mail
- Website accounts and storage, like domain names, hosting services, online business accounts, cloud storage via Dropbox, Google Drive, and/or Apple iCloud
- Social media profiles, like Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube
- Virtual currency, like Bitcoin
- Online subscriptions or publications, like newspapers, magazines, and blogs
- Utility payments for electricity, gas, water, phones, and Internet
- Benefit accounts, like airline miles, railroad miles, retailer rewards, hotel rewards, and loyalty programs
- Client records
- Patient records
- Computer software
- Computer files
- Family photographs
- Text messages
All the digital assets listed above can and should be considered during your estate planning. More specifically, these assets should be included in your will or at least addressed in a separate amendment/codicil to your will.
To that end, make a list of your digital assets, including your login information for each asset, to bring with you when you meet with your Tennessee estate planning attorney. Discuss what you want to do with each of your assets so that your attorney can include your digital assets in your estate plan. For example, you may want some assets deleted upon your death, or you may want other digital assets transferred to a specific person. The latter particularly holds true with any digital accounts that have monetary value or that generate revenue.
Who can access your digital assets after you die?
It is important to be aware of what your digital assets include and to know how you want your digital assets handled upon your death. It is even more important to make sure your wishes will be. You need to make sure the right person has access to your digital assets.
According to the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2016, certain persons can access your digital assets. These persons include:
The Act also allows the executors of estates to close some online accounts and to take steps to protect the decedent's family and other beneficiaries from fraud. Through your estate plan and in accordance with this Act, you can decide via estate planning whom you want to permit access to your digital assets.
This Act grants you the ability to use estate planning to determine who has permission to access your digital assets. It also helps you protect your privacy and your financial information after your death. Your beneficiaries will not have to worry about protecting your information. And that's a huge relief in the digital age.
Estate planning has ventured well into the world of “all things digital.” If Digital assets are important to you, they are likely to be important to your beneficiaries, too. Though not all these assets bear a monetary value, they do have sentimental value, such as photographs, and personal information that should be protected. Digital information can cause harm if the wrong person accesses the accounts (e.g., identify fraud). Make sure you consider and plan for all your digital assets when you plan your estate. Contact established estate planning attorney John Crow online or by phone at 931-218-7800 to learn about the best ways to protect your digital assets via your estate plan.