Don't forget digital assets when doing your estate planning

As just about every aspect of a person's life is now tied to digital accounts, it is important to protect digital assets in the event of death or incapacitation. Unfortunately, this is something that many Michigan residents fail to do, leaving loved ones fighting for the right to access online information. How can digital assets be included during the estate planning process?

The goals of estate planning are simple: protect assets and beneficiaries and make wishes known. When estate planning, most people only tend to consider physical assets and bank accounts. While these are important, digital information also deserves attention. Unless access to digital accounts is granted to a loved one, the companies with whom those accounts are with can refuse access and service. This is due to digital privacy laws.

While the purpose of digital privacy laws is good, these protections can be a hassle for loved ones and personal representatives who want to access or close online accounts in the event of one's death or incapacitation. So, in order to make sure access will be granted when needed, one must give consent in writing. Along with giving consent, it is wise to provide a list of all digital assets with account usernames, passwords and any applicable security questions and answers. As this information is changed fairly frequently, keeping this list up-to-date is vital.

Every state has different laws regarding how digital assets are to be handled in the event of incapacitation or death. In Michigan, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act was passed in 2016, allowing one to name a digital executor who will be able handle these assets. With the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, one will be able to ensure that the necessary steps are take so that all assets, whether physical or digital, are adequately protected.

Source:, "Estate Planning For The Digital World", Abby VanDerHeyden, Feb. 27, 2017