More research has shown that people have higher numbers of online accounts than ever before. This can present unique challenges in the estate planning process. This is largely because many people forget to include their digital assets in their overall estate planning. Digital assets and accounts are a relatively new category of assets that both trustees and executors must be familiar with.
If you’ve recently been established in the role of trustee and executor, you need to be aware of how online accounts could affect your ability to do your job. Plenty of people today maintain digital, financial and other property account records. These have both sentimental and monetary value to the estate, and therefore must be included in the overall inventory.
Some types of these accounts may need to be closed as soon as possible to prevent an identity theft process known as ghosting, or because they are automatic bill paying accounts.
Others can be helpful in gathering the financial information associated with the estate. Information linked to digital accounts could be stored on flash drives, external hard drives, laptops, online storage accounts or smartphones. It is very common for many decedents to have various types of digital assets including:
- Domain names
- Online video accounts
- Online storage accounts
- Online music accounts
- Social media accounts
- Online retail accounts
An executor should be prepared to do a thorough evaluation of all these possibilities. If you’re setting up your own estate planning, now is a good time to talk with a lawyer about how to set your executor up for success.