Estate Planning and Digital Assets

Many people are now investing in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and other digital assets. Digital assets include more than currency. They also include your social media accounts, email accounts, and other accounts. If you don’t make sure that your executor or your heirs know how to access these accounts, these digital accounts will be lost forever. Even if you prefer non-digital assets, the companies you work for, and the companies that hold or invest your money may be investing in digital assets.  

What are digital assets?

Digital assets, according to Fidelity, include financial records in smartphones, computers, and the cloud. Most people own many more digital assets than they might we think. Our lawyers help residents of Berks County identify these digital assets which include:

  • Social media accounts
  • “Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, Dogecoin, Tether, and Litecoin”
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • Domain names and websites
  • Digital photo and video archives
  • Dropbox and other cloud-based storage accounts
  • Digital rights to intellectual property
  • Digital accounts in an online betting account
  • Blogs
  • “Online video channels where the content is monetized and producing an advertising revenue stream for its owner”
  • “Online gaming avatars that offer online goods or services that may be worth real-world money.”

Digital assets also include all the apps you use, loyalty program benefits, and online subscriptions.

Access to digital assets

Digital assets are considered property like other assets such as your home, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and personal property. The laws around digital property are continuing to evolve.  The obstacles to access to digital assets, according to Fidelity, are:

  • Passwords. Your executor or someone in your family does need to be able to access your accounts – even if they hire computer specialists. Anyone considering preparing a will or even relying on intestate transfers of digital assets needs to have a current list of passwords and logins for every type of digital account they use. The passwords and logins should be written on paper since digital lists may not be accessible. The list should be given to the person you choose to be your executor. Skilled estate planning lawyers may have other practical suggestions.
  • Data encryption. Even when an executor or heir can access the digital accounts, the information may be encrypted. Encryption scrambles the data so that it can’t be accessed unless there is a way to un-encrypt the data.
  • Criminal laws and data privacy laws. There are federal and state laws that regulate unauthorized access to personal private data and computer systems. While these laws help protect against identity theft and fraud, they can be difficult for a personal representative of an estate to overcome – without the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer.

One practical suggestion is to back up your data to the cloud and provide a means to access the cloud when you pass away.

How do digital assets affect estate planning in Pennsylvania?

Fidelity recommends that you work with an experienced estate planning attorney. The lawyer will address and digital asset recovery, transfer, and distribution issues in:

  • Your wills
  • Your powers of attorney
  • Any revocable living trusts

Generally, the more specific you are the better. The entities that store your digital information often have very specific requirements for accessing the data they store.

You should consider authorizing your executor or fiduciary to modify or bypass and password requirements.

The main basics are that you need to review are the need to:

  • Identify all your digital assets.
  • Decide who you want to have your digital assets.
  • Decide who will be responsible for the transfer of the digital assets and the deletion of any data.

If you have any business interests, you will also need to address the identification, access, and distribution of your digital business assets. This may include updates or changes to any current business documentation.

Additional considerations need to be discussed with your estate planning lawyer if the digital assets are high-value assets as opposed to personal and daily-living assets.

Speak with an experienced Berks County estate planning lawyer today

Get peace of mind. At Antanavage Farbiarz, we’re keeping current with how digital assets affects the estate planning needs of our clients. We help seniors, parents, and everyone who wants to prepare for the time they die – identify their goals and needs. We help with the practical and legal aspects of estate planning. To discuss digital assets, wills, trusts, powers of attorneys, and other estate planning issues, Antanavage Farbiarz, PLLC, now.