Russ Cook & Associates, PC

Estate administration tricky if digital assets aren't included

Careful preparation of digital assets is becoming an important part of estate planning. Digital assets may include sentimental items, like pictures and posts on social media, or assets with financial value, such as artistic photography, electronic currency, or revenue-generating blogs or websites. If people in Tennessee manage online stores on eBay, Etsy or other sites, they may have digital assets to consider. Preparing those assets can assist one's heirs and representatives during estate administration.

Understanding the evolving definition of a digital asset is important. For example, books or music downloaded onto one's computer are not digital assets because the person downloading them has only a license to use them, not ownership of the item. Creating a detailed list of the digital items for which the rights are owned is the first step. This inventory should include the addresses, usernames, passwords and security access information for all online accounts.

Some accounts like Facebook have policies in place for the fate of an account when its owner dies or becomes incapacitated. However, like many things in the electronic world, those policies change as laws develop. Nevertheless, the person who clearly states his or her intentions for any digital property is more likely to have those assets disposed of according to those wishes than someone who fails to formally address them. Using a will or trust may be essential in some instances where federal privacy laws forbid the transfer of access without legal permission.

The executor of an estate may find a difficult task ahead if undertaking estate administration without the ability to access certain digital assets. Because laws in Tennessee may vary from other states and change frequently, it is best to have legal advice when preparing one's estate or attempting to administer the estate of a loved one. An experienced attorney can provide such assistance.

Source:, "Tips for Putting Your Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan," Bob Carlson, July 28, 2017

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