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Should you include digital assets in your estate plan?

It is common for individuals to focus on physical assets while creating the various documents that become an estate plan. Unfortunately, they might fail to realize that digital assets have slowly grown in importance over the last two decades. Couples often find that physical assets likely carry an online component. It is also possible the asset only exists in a digital environment. In either event, people must include these various online properties in their estate plan.

While they are different for each individual and every family, common examples of digital assets can include:

  • Online presence: A couple will often construct an online presence consisting of social media pages, blogs, and websites that primarily focus on photo- and video-sharing. It is wise to include provisions in a will to account for ownership of these websites even if it is only to transfer full ownership to a surviving spouse.
  • Digital storefront: In recent decades, individuals have seen the growing popularity of online storefronts. Whether people accomplish this through eBay, Facebook Marketplace or a truly independent website, owners of these retail spots often devote countless hours and numerous resources to growing the business. Much like a brick-and-mortar location, owners must discuss the future of the digital storefront in the estate plan.
  • Entertainment collections: Individuals can spend countless hours and thousands of dollars amassing a collection of books, movies, music and video games that only exist in a digital world. After years, these can become immense collections that need to be treated like any other physical entertainment media.
  • Cryptocurrencies: Whether they are dabbling or sinking huge sums of money into cryptocurrency, individuals must account for these assets in their estate plan. From Bitcoin to Ethereum and everything in between, people must treat these digital currencies like cash in hand in an estate plan.
  • Online shopper rewards: The digital marketplace is a crowded retail space. Companies seek to pull attention from competitors by offering consumer rewards. Whether this is in the form of gift cards, store credit, airline miles or a cash-back bonus, these rewards can represent thousands of dollars in value to surviving heirs.

Even though people might gravitate first toward the distribution of physical assets when developing a comprehensive estate plan, they must also consider their digital assets. Things like an entertainment collection or a well-designed online storefront can be valuable assets to surviving loved ones and it would be a shame to ignore their distribution.