In the digital age, our lives extend far beyond physical possessions. A substantial part of our personal and financial lives now exists online as digital assets. This comprehensive guide aims to help Missouri residents understand how to include digital assets in their estate planning process.
1. Understanding Digital Assets
Digital assets are any information or data that exist in a digital format and come with the right to use. This broad definition includes digital files, emails, social media accounts, online banking and brokerage accounts, digital photos, and even cryptocurrencies.
2. The Importance of Digital Assets in Estate Planning
It's crucial to account for digital assets in your estate plan, as they may have sentimental or financial value. For instance, you may have photos stored on a cloud service, money in a PayPal account, or a personal blog generating ad revenue. If your estate plan doesn't address these assets, your heirs may not be able to access them.
3. Missouri and Federal Laws
As of 2021, Missouri has not yet adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) that many states use as a legal framework for managing digital assets. However, federal privacy laws still apply, and certain digital service providers have procedures for handling accounts in the event of a user's death.
4. Including Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
Creating an inventory of your digital assets is the first step. List all your digital assets, including usernames and passwords, and keep this list secure yet accessible to your executor.
Next, include a provision in your will or trust that grants your executor authority to deal with your digital assets. Discuss this with your attorney to ensure it's done correctly under Missouri law.
Some online services have a legacy contact or inactive account manager feature, where you can designate someone to manage your account after your death. Use these features where available.
5. Legal Assistance
Estate planning involving digital assets can be complex, particularly due to the ever-evolving nature of technology and related laws. It is recommended to seek assistance from an attorney specializing in estate planning and familiar with the intricacies of digital assets.
As our lives become increasingly digital, so too does our estate. Proper estate planning now includes a plan for managing digital assets after death. In Missouri, while laws regarding digital assets are still developing, residents can take steps to ensure their digital legacy is handled according to their wishes.