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Don't forget about your digital assets when estate planning

The Internet has overtaken so many facets of our lives, that we may not even realize how pervasive it is. People in Minnesota do their banking and pay bills online, save documents and photographs in the "cloud," own their own online businesses through Etsy, and stay in touch with their loved ones over Facebook. And these are only a few examples of the many types of digital assets a person may have.

Many people in Minnesota with digital assets may have already created an estate plan or are thinking of doing so. What is important to keep in mind is that these days an estate plan should include provisions regarding one's digital assets. After all, estate planning is meant to simplify the management of one's property once one passes away. Without the necessary information, the executor of one's estate could be ill-prepared to deal with the deceased's digital assets.

There is currently no federal law regarding how one person can access another person's digital assets. However, Minnesota along with 28 other states have laws on the books that provide a means through which a person's loved ones can access the person's digital assets after the person passes away. For example, the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act sets forth procedures through which the executor of your estate can access your digital assets after you pass away. It also allows a person to establish certain digital assets as "off-limits" once he or she dies.

There are also other ways a person can plan for how their loved ones will access the person's digital assets once the person dies. A person can keep a list of login IDs and passwords all in one secure place, such as an online vault. A person can also draft a digital asset plan that specifically dictates the person's intent about how his or her digital assets will be handled after he or she dies, and by whom. Keep in mind, when choosing who to handle your digital assets, that that person may have access to very personal information.

In the end, Minnesotans have options for including their digital assets in their estate plan. Those with further questions about how this can be done may want to seek the advice of an estate planning attorney who can assess their client's situation and provide sound legal advice.

Source: Kiplinger, "Digital Assets Need to Be a Part of Your Estate Plan," John M. Goralka, June 2017

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