Not many people think about their online persona when they die, but this is increasingly becoming a critical part of planning out your estate. Not only that but what about all the songs you downloaded from Amazon or iTunes? What about the video game licenses you have from Steam? There are so many goods that are no longer physical but are in fact now digital assets and most people aren’t even thinking about these when it comes to setting up their estate plans. This is not only a new issue in Alexandria, but it is often not an easy cut and dry process.
There are maddeningly few studies done on this topic, but according to a recent McAfee study conducted in 2013, many people have thousands of assets stored on their various digital accounts or devices, and that is even upwards of $35,000 on average. Movies, music, games, e-books on their e-book readers, and online courses and paid lifetime memberships. Aren’t these assets?
The problem is, despite being impossible to recreate in many cases, those assets are often just lost when the account owner dies, gone forever. This isn’t only because of an inability to access them but also because of terms and conditions and a lack of consumer-friendly laws to help make these assets inheritable. Otherwise, a world where records, CDs, video game cartridges, and books are part of accumulated wealth give way to a world where those music, games, and stories can never be passed on.
This is increasingly becoming a serious problem and while it isn’t easily solved there are some basic steps everyone should take.
- Speak to your attorney & financial adviser in Alexandria on how to handle your digital assets
- Make a list of all online accounts, descriptions, and assets you have
- Update this list once a year, so everyone is aware of them
- Have a list of current passwords kept in a safe place, and set up people who can access them upon your death (and make sure those people know it exists)
- Make sure your will clearly gives people the ability to inherit, close down, or otherwise take care of your digital assets
- Keep your will updated
Do these things, and you will be far ahead of 99% of the people out there who are not ready for this ongoing shift.
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Misha Gill is an Alexandria estate planning attorney for his firm, Speedwell Law, PLLC. If you would like assistance in setting up your own will, living trust, and other estate planning documents, Misha can be reached at (703) 553-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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