Making Cents: Estate Planning for Digital Assets
By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST
I refer to estate planning as the process of organizing one’s personal and financial affairs in such a way as to minimize disruption, cost and taxes upon the death or disability of a person. You don’t need a lot of money to have an estate plan. All that’s needed are people you care about and some assets, like life insurance and retirement accounts. The assets that many overlook are what is called digital assets.
Digital assets present in many varying ways- but think of them like this. If a computer and a password is needed to access it, it’s likely some kind of digital asset. Experts divvy digital property into three types.
Personal digital property encompasses smart phones, iPads, or any digital device. Also included is any information about you stored online or on one of your devices. Social media accounts, photo storing or sharing, and any websites, domains or blogs that you manage also comprise your digital assets.
The next level of personal property in digital fashion would include any of the devices that may have monetary value or websites that generate revenue for you. This would comprise your personal bank accounts, loyalty reward accounts or any other electronic accounts with some sort of credit due to you.
Digital business property is classified separately, and for estate planning purposes are going to be valued in connection with the business that owns the digital assets. Reminder: you need a plan for your business digital assets just as you do for your personal digital assets.
Create an inventory of these digital assets. This is by far the most painful part of the process. Compiling the list itself is a bear to do, and maintaining it is just as difficult. In this day and age of data breaches and expiring passwords, simply creating strong passwords and keeping them fresh is a challenge.
Some utilize Apps or other means of storing their digital information. While this may help, I can’t say that an online password storage manager is flawless. It may help just as an old school list would. If you choose the later method, realize how significant those records are. Store them in a safe and secure spot.
Ensure that your wills and trusts are explicit in regard to accessing all digital assets. Determine that your appointed person will be able to do the job that you wish in the event of your total disability or death. In general, your wills and trusts should be surveyed every 5 years. If you’re accruing a large, complex digital estate, maybe now is the right time to review what you have and update it for all of your digital assets.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice.
John Napolitano, US Financial Advisors, US Wealth Management and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.
John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA is CEO of US Wealth Management in Braintree, MA. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.