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Do you think of digital assets when it comes to estate planning?

It is a topic that is becoming more frequently discussed in the course of drawing up an estate plan: digital assets. What are digital assets? Well, that would be all of the things you keep on your computer, be it a home desktop or personal laptop. Pictures, videos, music and personal files, all of these can be considered digital assets. Beyond these, you may have an entire online persona that is password protected, including everything from an email account to a Facebook page. When a Michigan resident approaches estate planning, they should not forget to answer the question: what do I want to happen to all of this?

A recent report detailed some interesting survey results: over half of the people included in the survey older than 45 years old considered it to be important to plan for the management of online personal property or digital accounts in an estate plan or will. However, the survey also reported that 57 percent have yet to take steps toward this goal.

Some states are taking steps to account for society's changing opinions regarding digital assets. Just to our south in Indiana, lawmakers addressed the issue in 2007 by including "electronic documents" within the definition of a person's "estate property."

So, what is the best way to include digital assets within a comprehensive estate plan? One of the best routes is to pick one of your relatives or friends to manage digital accounts in such a way that they are either closed or continued, in accordance with the planner's wishes. A detailed, and constantly updated, list of usernames and passwords can be attached to a will to ensure that there is a smooth transition of this personal property to the designated guardian of the information and assets. From there, the appointee can then administer the property and accounts as directed.

The word is getting out that digital assets need to be considered within the framework of an estate plan. Anyone who has yet to address the issue in their will should look toward making the appropriate revisions.

Source: Post-Gazette.com, "Digital assets often forgotten during estate planning," Becky Yerak, Aug. 31, 2012

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