When creating or updating their estate plans, residents of Washington should make sure that they address how their digital assets are to be handled. This may require that individuals do some legal research, as there are number of challenges that arise when addressing digital assets.
Locating digital assets online can be an issue due to the vast amount of online information that may have to be sifted through. Access to digital assets is another concern, as the majority of assets that are stored online are accessible only if the correct username or password is used. Another challenge pertaining to digital assets is that ownership rights of digital assets are not has defined as those for traditional assets.
Digital assets include the valuable information that is stored on physical, digital devices, such as iPhones and computers. Examples of digital assets can include blog posts, software programs, credit card reward points, email accounts, online phones, websites and cryptocurrencies.
When handling estate planning matters, individuals should not underestimate the importance of digital assets. This is because they have actual monetary value. According to one study, the typical person worldwide had more than $35,000 digital assets in 2013. In that same year, the average person in the United States had more than $55,000 in digital assets.
Digital assets can also hold lifestyle or sentimental benefits. There may be no monetary value in online photos and email communications between family members, but heirs who view the assets sentimentally may want to have access to them.
An estate planning attorney may consider the assets and goals of a client and may recommend certain types of legal devices to include in an estate plan. The attorney might take into account the tax implications of estate planning decisions and may suggest what is needed to protect digital assets.