Estate Planning 101: Don’t Forget About Your Digital Assets

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Estate planning is one of the most difficult aspects of personal finance. As humans, we tend to procrastinate on dealing with our own mortality and often focus on seemingly more important issues facing us today. However, estate plans play a significant role in reducing frustration for loved ones, especially in the digital age.

While most people realize that estate plans should be created to help distribute physical property such as real estate or jewelry, there is a growing need to consider intangible property. The Internet is increasingly becoming the main storage of our financial lives. A recent survey from Pew Research revealed that 51 percent of American adults bank online, and 32 percent bank using their mobile phones. In fact, with almost nine out of 10 Americans using the Internet, there are a wide variety of digital assets that should be included in estate plans.

“Digital assets hold both financial and sentimental value to family and friends that should be addressed in the estate planning and administration process,” said James Lamm, an estate planning and tax attorney, to Ally Bank. “The first challenges are finding the person’s digital property and identifying which digital property is valuable or significant. Additional obstacles with digital property that you don’t have with traditional property are passwords, encryption, computer crime laws, and data privacy laws. Any one of them can make it practically impossible to do anything with the digital property unless you’ve planned ahead.”