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Digital assets and estate planning - are you prepared?

As the end of the year approaches, many of our Michigan readers may be thinking that now is the time to make a last minute run at estate planning. For many, there is no time like the present, especially for tax planning purposes. This is because there are some exempts and taxes which will most likely be changing by next year. For others, the end of the year can be a period of reflection on all of the events which have transpired over the course of 2012, which can lead to the conclusion that now is the time to make sure that relatives would be taken care of in the unfortunate event of an untimely death. However, no matter what is driving a person to start thinking about their estate plan, one part of the estate that many will need to remember to include is one that has only been coming to light in recent years: digital assets.

Previous posts have touched on the need to include digital assets in a comprehensive estate plan, while other posts have hammered home the point that at a bare minimum everyone needs to have a will and powers of attorney. But what is the best way to check both of these needs off in an estate plan?

For starters, those with extensive digital assets, like photos, movies, music or personal websites, need to be sure that they keep a secure list of the passwords needed to access those files. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the most important thing is to ensure that it is done. Next, the planner will need to have someone in mind who will be able to access these assets and follow through with the planner's wishes on how to move forward with them.

The key, however, is this: the password list should not be specifically included in the planner's official will. The planner may detail the designated person in the will, but the secure password list should be kept separate. This will ensure that only the designated caretaker of the digital assets is able to access the files.

As the world's technology advances, the legal options in regards to estate planning will be evolving as well. It is important that anyone who has digital assets to consider should be sure to address the issue within a comprehensive estate plan.

Source: news10, "Digital estate planning will give loved ones access to your digital content," Nick Monacelli, Nov. 26, 2012

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