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Challenges Posed by Digital Assets


A properly drafted estate plan should dispose of a person’s assets when they die. However, Americans are increasingly owning more and more assets that are not tangible. These digitals assets are real assets, sometimes worth considerable amounts of money, and they must be left to somebody.

Below, our estate planning attorneys in The Villages look at some of the challenges posed by digital assets and offers ways for overcoming them.

You Aren’t Even Aware You Own a Digital Asset

Many people forget to think of digital assets when drafting an estate plan. Some more common digital assets include:

  • Electronic books
  • Digital photos
  • Digital video games
  • Domain names
  • Intellectual property

Some of these might not have much monetary value. For example, digital photos of your trip to Paris might only have sentimental value to you and a few surviving family members. Also, you probably don’t need to worry about who gets these photos since they are easy to copy and share with others.

Other digital assets, however, could have significant value. Intellectual property could be exploited for commercial gain. For example, did you write any novels in your spare time? Take photographs that might interest other people? Write a blog that was slowly gaining in popularity? Whoever inherits these digital assets could try to monetize them, so you want to leave them to the right person.

To fully identify your digital assets, meet with an estate planning lawyer who can review what you own. They can also help you choose the correct beneficiary.

You Don’t Provide the Means for Accessing Digital Assets

If an asset is stored on a computer with a password, then it will be hard for your beneficiaries to access them. They might not even know where these assets are stored. If you leave a car to someone, it is pretty easy to find. If you leave someone a copy of your poetry collection, then it might be on any number of computers or flash drives, or it could be stored in the cloud somewhere.

As part of your estate plan, draft a list of digital assets and provide the location for each. Also include username and password, if relevant.

You Leave Business Digital Assets to the Wrong Person

If you own a business, then a tremendous amount of value could be contained in digital assets. For example, proprietary information like customer lists or trade secrets can exist in digital form. Your business domain name could also have value.

You will want to make sure that the right people gain access to these assets, which can be a challenge if your business was a sole proprietorship. Remember to include them in a business succession plan or your estate plan. It makes little sense for one beneficiary to gain physical business assets, like an office building or a computer, but have digital assets go to someone else who is not connected to the business.

Speak with an Elder Law Planning Attorney at Millhorn Today

Correctly identifying digital assets and including them in your estate plan could seem like an enormous undertaking. Our lawyers at Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group can help. To schedule a free consultation, please contact us today at 800-743-9732.


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