Wills, trusts, and other estate documents automatically include physical assets, such as your home, brick-and-mortar bank accounts, antiques, and boat. Such items have obvious value, if only because they are tangible and visible, and likely to be discovered by your executor if they go through your files and see supporting documentation.
Since the dawn of the 21st century, however, digital assets have also become important. In fact, they may be worth more, both financially and sentimentally, than what you physically own. Consider the following examples:
- Email accounts most probably contain most of your correspondence with all the important people in your life, such as loved ones, colleagues, suppliers, and merchants.
- You do most of your banking and investing online, having eliminated paper statements to save the environment.
- As the family genealogist, you store your family tree, historical scans, and photos on sharing sites for easy access by your loved ones. You let them know of any additions through your Facebook updates.
- Much of your income comes from your consulting website, where you not only accept payments from clients, but generate revenue from affiliate ads and eBook sales.
What happens to all these digital assets if you die or are incapacitated? If your heirs or executors don’t know anything about them, your online treasures could disappear due to lack of activity. They could also continue to generate income that cannot be touched because you never told anyone about the user codes and passwords needed to access the money.
At the very least, you need to make sure your estate plans document your email address and password. Much of your virtual property generates email statements that you executors will discover once they browse your messages. Even better is to list all your digital property, include website addresses, user names, passwords, what they generate, and their importance.