In our current digital age, the number of accounts and digital assets we maintain can be quite extensive. According to a MarketWatch.com article on the subject, “Americans value their digital assets at more than $54,000 on average, according to a 2011 survey conducted for McAfee, a security technology company – but few people take the time create an estate plan for their digital assets.”
As a freelancer who spends much of my time working online, I’ve already considered just what will be left behind to my family after my demise. And having assisted with several estate settlements for various family members, I know just how complicated and confused things can get. Therefore, I’m already getting things in order when it comes to leaving my digital inheritance.
There are all sorts of things that could be included in my digital inheritance. Some such items are more minor and likely not worth bothering with, but others could be more substantial. From books and article rights, to photographs and artwork, website account credits, blogs, email accounts, and a multitude of online accounts, there is quite a list of items that have filled my digital inheritance inventory.
By creating not just an inventory list, but adding things like web addresses, user names, passwords, and the potential worth of these items, I’m not just leaving these items behind to my descendents, but I’m providing the information to help them handle these assets once I’m gone.
Creating a hardcopy
Leaving an inventory of my digital inheritance behind might not do much good if it’s kept in some obscure location on my computer that my descendents might have difficulty finding. Keeping a hardcopy with my will, as well as one in our safe deposit box at the bank can help ensure that such information isn’t lost or mistakenly discarded or deleted upon my passing.
Explaining rights and understanding user agreements
Those who inherit my digital assets upon my passing likely won’t be familiar with how all such assets are structured, whether such assets are transferrable, or exactly what they’re entitled to. For example, some of the writing sites for which I have worked over the years either retain the rights to many articles I wrote or won’t pay residuals on such works to anyone other than myself. Therefore, since I understand better the rights and user agreements that I’m bound by through my use of particular online sites, I can help sift through which digital assets are most important to my descendants. By doing this ahead of my passing, I hope to help them avoid a lot of wasted time and trouble trying to figure out the assets that are the most valuable and which ones to focus upon after my passing.
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The author is not a licensed financial or estate planning professional. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.