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What Is Digital Estate Planning?

Posted by Judy Nakashima Shoji | Feb 09, 2021 | 0 Comments

When it comes to end-of-life planning and their estate, most people don't even think about their digital footprint. In its simplest form, a “digital asset” is a non-physical asset that exists online in electronic format. Most clients preserve digital assets either for sentimental or financial value. Examples of digital assets that are preserved for their sentimental value include:

  • Email accounts
  • Social medial accounts
  • Online banking accounts
  • Online subscription-based accounts
  • Ecommerce or marketplace accounts (i.e., Amazon, eBay, etc.)
  • Photos saved online or in the cloud
  • Online chatroom accounts
  • Cell phone apps
  • Online dating or gaming accounts
  • Online accounts for utilities
  • Loyalty program benefits (i.e., frequent flyer miles, credit card perks, etc.)
  • Any other personal information you store on your computer, cell phone, or tablet

The importance of having a digital estate plan has grown exponentially over the past decade as technology continues to occupy our daily lives. Without an estate plan, these assets could be lost forever, or your personal security could be at risk. These possibilities lead to the question: Who has access to my online accounts, and how will those accounts be managed and distributed if I become incapacitated or pass away?

Include Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

Through your will or financial power of attorney, you can give a legal representative the right to access your digital assets. However, standard or DIY estate forms, including wills and powers of attorney, may not refer to digital assets. We can draft clauses for your will and power of attorney that address your digital assets. The clauses in your estate documents permit your legal representative to access your online accounts and digital assets.

Through your estate plan, you direct your legal representative on how to manage each digital asset, including who inherits each asset. Depending on the size of your digital footprint, you may need a comprehensive estate plan for your digital assets. You also need to ensure that you choose a person who has the skills and experience necessary to access and manage digital assets and online accounts.

In addition, a low-tech way to protect your digital assets involves creating a letter of instructions that explains how your heirs where your digital assets are located and how they can access all your accounts. This letter may not grant them legal access per se, but it can help them get started with some basic information on the accounts you own and how to log in.

Final Thoughts…

Don't leave your loved ones scrambling. With a comprehensive estate plan that includes digital assets, your family and loved ones can avoid dealing with the ordeal of losing your digital assets, having to comb through years of online account information, or filing lawsuits to gain access to these important assets. The more detailed your plan, the better off your loved ones and your online information will be when the time comes. The best way to begin is to call us today. We're here to help.

About the Author

Judy Nakashima Shoji

Judy prides herself on being approachable, down to earth and willing to answer any questions hr clients may have. She is a Seattle native. She attended the University of Washington, Tokyo University and Seattle University School of Law. She was a legal intern in the Civil Division of the Seattle City Attorney's Office and at Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company located in Shinjuku, Japan. Judy advises clients in all aspects of estate planning, probate and adoptions. She also serves as a Title 11 court appointed investigator in guardianship cases for King County Superior Court. She cannot think of any areas in which she would rather practice. She invests in learning about her client's whole story which creates a friendly environment in which she can provide more effective assistance. Her goal is for her estate planning clients to walk away with a customized, detailed, realistic, and clear estate plan which will accomplish their wishes. Estate planning can be uncomfortable and confusing and her goal is to explain complicated legal options in a way that is easy to understand and clear. Her desire is to provide peace of mind and clarity for her clients while also giving them the information necessary to make well informed decision. Judy has been a member of the Elder Law and Real Property and Trust sections of the Washington State Bar Association and King County Bar Association. She has been a volunteer attorney with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Clinic and Pro Bono Services for the past 14 years where she was recognized as volunteer of the month in October 2014. Judy is married with three children. Outside of work she enjoys traveling to sunny locations, exercising (HIIT and barbell classes keep her grounded) and spending time with the people (and animals) she loves.

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Elise Buie Family Law Group PLLC
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