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Don't forget your digital legacy when planning your estate

It's an issue that we occasionally revisit because of its increasing importance in modern estate planning. We're talking about planning your digital legacy.

Digital assets may have monetary value or sentimental value. In either case, if not addressed properly in a comprehensive estate plan, digital assets can cause problems and potential litigation in the administration of an estate.

Really, digital assets may include any aspect of your personal life and estate that can be accessed or stored online. For example, online accounts with monetary value may include your bank account or your Paypal account. Digital assets with sentimental value may include any social media accounts or any accounts for storing pictures or videos.

If not addressed in an estate plan, any of these matters could become the subject of litigation. A good idea, therefore, is to assess the extent of your online presence and create a plan that helps your loved ones and your estate executor avoid confusion and conflict.

For example, do you want your social media accounts closed after you are gone, or would your family prefer to keep the accounts active as a way of remembering you? If the plan is to close the account, have you read the terms of service and taken the proper steps to ensure the closure? If the plan is to keep the account active, have you provided the login information and password to someone you trust?

Keep in mind, too, that companies that provide online accounts are typically reluctant to provide account information to someone other than the account holder. In fact, with regard to this issue, we discussed the cautionary tale of a Canadian woman who struggled for months to get her deceased husband's iPad password from Apple.

For more on creating a comprehensive estate plan, please see Hagel Lawfirm's overview of estate planning, wills and trusts.

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