Working digital property into a Florida estate plan

In Florida and across the country, people are turning to the online world for just about everything. Pew Research conducted a survey that found approximately 85 percent of adults in the United States use the Internet in some way, such as storing personal property. The survey also found that 51 percent of adults are using online bank accounts.

The convenience of the Internet is hard to dispute. Yet the ability of an online account to generate revenue or simply hold sentimental value is precisely why it should be incorporated into estate planning.

Digital property can include any of the following items:

  •          Picture, movie and audio files
  •          Email accounts
  •          Social networking accounts
  •          Creative works
  •          Data
  •          Intellectual property

Chances are that some kind of value can be assigned to each of these items. According to the American Bar Association, working digital assets into an estate plan can prevent identity theft and ensure that the owner’s wishes are kept.

Experts suggest that in order to protect digital property, people should incorporate them into either a will or trust. That will involve taking a detailed inventory of any online assets and then outlining usernames and passwords for them. It is recommended that passwords should not be stored in a will, because that document is often public. Instead, people wishing to include digital assets in their estate planning should leave a trustee or executor instructions on how to find those passwords.

Through a digital asset trust, an owner can transfer online property to someone else or ask that a Facebook page be memorialized or removed. Experts note that some accounts, such as a music account, may not be able to transfer ownership. An estate planning professional could help determine which assets hold value and how to address them.

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