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Estate plans should reflect our digital lives

Estate planning should change when our lives change. As technological developments have occurred, a large part of our lives have resulted in digital presences. This digital presence might be intellectual property. Photos that are stored on a hard drive are likely owned by the person that took them and owns the hard drive. These photos, along with other digital property, could have value to a person and their family.

While many people broadly state through their estate plans that family memories and items can be divided up evenly, digital assets are often forgotten, and families aren't sure who should own the rights to digital pictures and other assets. This is why it might be important for people to include digital assets in their estate plans.

How does someone go about including digital assets in their estate plan? The first step, as with many estate planning documents, is identifying assets to include in an estate plan. This might include social media accounts, online banking information, online investments, virtual profiles, as well as pictures, videos and documents that aren't kept in physical form. Many people could assess a value to their digital assets, and don't consider them worthless. This means it is important that they are properly included in a person's estate plan.

Once a person has a list of their digital assets, they might be wise to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure they are included in their plan. If a person doesn't have a plan, they would be wise to assess all of their assets including digital assets to ensure the person's wishes are honored.

Source: The Associated Press, "How to protect your digital life with estate plans," March 2, 2013

-Our law firm handles estate planning issues for New Jersey residents. Please visit our website to learn more.

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