Chicago IL Estate Planning Attorney Answers, “What is a Digital Estate?”
The digital age has been around for quite some time now, and as many Illinois residents are getting older and planning their estates, they are realizing that they have a wealth of assets and other property digitized and online. For instance, if you have an email account, a Facebook page, an online banking portal, or other online accounts, such as those to pay bills, then what will happen with all of these digital assets after your death?
Well, those accounts and assets don’t die along with you, but they may be locked by the password you took with you. This means that those valuable online assets could be lost forever, or others could find ways to exploit them.
With online accounts continuing to grow and capture more of our assets, files, bank accounts, financial accounts, and so forth, it is important to understand the issues and complications associated with a digital estate. If you are considering making a new estate plan, or would like to update the plans that you current have, contact Chicago estate planning attorney James C. Provenza today to discuss your options!
Overview of Digital Estates
In the past, an estate consisted of will, trusts, power of attorney appointments, life insurance policies, and any property, including financial accounts. The documents backing up these estate planning tools involved paper documents stored away in file cabinets, for example. Today, many financial, personal, and business documents may be digitized and stored online. After an individual dies, accessing these documents while managing and distributing them to beneficiaries can be extremely complicated. It is often difficult to access (via passwords) or even locate the documents in the first place.
How to Create a Digital Estate Plan
By creating a digital estate plan, you can help your family collect, manage, and access your digital assets in a straightforward, easy manner. For instance, a digital estate plan can help:
- Locate your online accounts
- Access the pertinent documents stored in those accounts
- Determine if your digital property has any financial value that needs to be reported and, in some cases, submitted for probate
- Distribute digital assets to beneficiaries
- Avoid identity theft online
Some assets that you may have online could include:
- Social network accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Digital photos and videos
- PayPal accounts
- Shopping accounts
- Accounts used to pay bills
- Online banking accounts
- Domain names
- Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own
- Any digital information or data, whether stored online or on a physical device
So, what are you supposed to do with all of this information and digital assets? The first step is to make a list of all your digital assets and how to access these accounts. You can also determine what you want to do with these assets, especially if the assets have monetary value, and you’ll need to instruct your estate’s executor on how to handle these assets. You should then store the digital information in a secure, yet accessible, location, such as with your attorney.
In some cases, you may be able to legalize your digital assets in a legally binding document, such as your will.
Contact Estate Attorney James C. Provenza Today
Digital estates are still quite new, and Illinois lawmakers are still working through the kinks on how to provide legislation ruling over digital assets. Nonetheless, the information you have stored online or in digital spaces still should be considered as part of your comprehensive estate plan. To speak with Chicago IL estate planning attorney about these issues, call today at (847) 729-3939.