Matt Worley, Esq.
One of the most overlooked areas in many estate plans is also one of the most important – your digital assets. While it is obvious that everyone has physical assets (home, car, personal possessions, etc.), most people (whether they realize it or not) have digital assets as well. Digital assets include things like websites, online banking accounts, blogs, credit card travel miles, online photos, and social media accounts. Digital assets can be either personal or business in nature.
According to a recent survey conducted by McAfee, people place an average value on their digital assets of $35,000, around half of which is attributed to “sentimental” value (think: digital photos stored online). With individuals placing such an emphasis and value on their digital assets, it is important to have a plan in place for them if you become incapacitated or pass away.
With the explosive rate at which technology and digital assets have developed in recent years, it’s no surprise that state and federal lawmakers are having difficulty keeping up. Some states are beginning to introduce legislation to deal with digital assets and incorporate them into their probate codes. However, the progress is slow and lacks a uniform approach among the states.
Until the laws catch up with the technology, the best way to safeguard these digital assets is through careful planning with an experienced attorney. When drafting estate planning documents (such as a durable power of attorney, will, or trust), it is important to include provisions which authorize the fiduciary to access these digital assets. Such provisions should also explicitly define the scope of that authority and clearly state the asset holder’s intentions for those assets.
Because this area of the law is new and still evolving, there are limited cases interpreting such provisions. However, having well-drafted provisions addressing digital assets will certainly provide peace of mind.
If you are looking to protect your digital assets through a durable power of attorney, or looking to set up a complete estate plan, contact the experienced attorneys at Fausone Bohn, LLP. You can reach us at 248-380-0000 or online at www.fb-firm.com. Our legal experts are knowledgeable about changing laws and stay up to date on this evolving area to ensure you receive the best protection for your digital assets – because we know how important they are to you.