When you begin the process of creating an estate plan, you may not know what to include or how to go about it. Estate planning is the process to arrange for the transfer of assets and property after you die. The plan is meant to provide the greatest amount of financial gain and support for the intended heirs and beneficiaries.
An estate is the property, assets, and personal items owned by an individual that will be distributed through a will or a trust. This property can include real estate, stocks, household items, cars, money in bank accounts, memorabilia, antiques, and heirlooms. But there is digital property that can sometimes be forgotten when creating an estate plan. This digital property can include online photographs; videos, music, and movies you’ve purchased and stored on your computer; as well as the data and information on a website you use for business or personal reasons.
How to Handle Digital Personal Property
When you consider the personal property stored on your computer or on a website, you may realize that there is important, sentimental, or valuable data there you want to protect. Including provisions for this data in your estate plan can help clarify how you want this personal property handled and distributed to your heirs or beneficiaries. Some of this property may only hold sentimental value; however, some items like movies and music may have significant financial worth—and they may be items you’d like someone else to enjoy.
Here are some tips for items you may want to include in your estate plan and how to handle them:
- Take inventory. If you store digital personal items on your computer, make a list of those items. You may have music purchased from iTunes or other downloadable sites, or you may have a collection of movies. When you include this list in your estate plan, you provide a complete inventory of stored, purchased goods to be distributed.
- Remember personal websites. You may have a website or a blog that you’ve used for personal reasons or business purposes that needs to be addressed after you die. This website or blog may include advertisements, photos, or data that will stay in cyberspace, forgotten and lost, if someone doesn’t close it down. It’s common for people to forget their “virtual lives” and online business presence as part of their estate. Consider how you want your website or blog handled and your personal data distributed.
- Call a family meeting. Call a meeting of your family members to discuss your digital personal property. There may be an obvious beneficiary for the music you’ve en massed—someone who shares your love of music—and someone who wants the photos for scrapbooks or albums, or especially loves memorabilia. Talk to your family to determine if there are people who will want to have these personal items. Provide the name of each recipient along with the item you want that person to have.
- Remember your social media. Don’t forget that you may have photos, music, or videos posted on your social media sites. While these items may not have significant financial value, they’re part of your history and memories. Your family may want this data, and if you don’t address how you want it to be handled, your site may continue on after your death with your personal items hanging in limbo. Some sites allow people to be memorialized after they die. If this is something you want, with these items left intact, you’ll need to provide specific instructions about this because some sites delete an account if it’s inactive for a length of time.
- Consider a digital executor. When you create an estate plan, you designate an executor to execute your estate and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. You may want to consider designating a digital executor to handle all of your digital personal property.
For more information about estate planning, contact our office of experienced Anaheim estate planning attorneys today. Call us at (714) 282-7488 for a consultation.