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Wills should include all assets, including digital ones

Technology reaches into every person's life, both the young and the old. Computers and cellphones are no longer the exclusive domain of the youthful or wealthy. As a result, every person creates a digital footprint, as it were, as they move through life. The data generated by individuals is sometimes referred to as "digital assets." Like any other assets, digital assets need to be dealt with in wills and other estate planning documents in British Columbia.

Digital assets include personal data like pictures and emails, but also encompass social media accounts, online bank accounts and stored payment information. The keys to accessing all this data are the various passwords used to protect them. Without leaving behind passwords, the executor and heirs to an estate could end up in a terrible bind. A list of passwords is one of the most fundamental pieces of information that needs to be entrusted to someone as part of estate planning.

Compiling a list of all known digital assets, and keeping it updated, will also help the executor when it comes time to locate and assess them. Notes should be made of locations of computers, hard drives, USB storage devices and cellphones. All accounts that may hold funds, like a PayPal account, and shopping sites with stored credit card details should be listed. Where possible, pre-arranging for an administrator to take over an account after the holder dies can simplify matters. Google allows for such a transition, and Facebook allows a user to choose between preserving an account as a memorial and having it deleted.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, but pre-planning for the management of digital assets after death will help ease the burden on an executor. Knowing that one's assets are going to be dealt with properly can also provide peace of mind. A lawyer who regularly handles wills and estate planning in British Columbia may be of great assistance with this task. 

Source: kiplinger.com, "Planning Your Digital Afterlife", Judy Gordon, Dec. 21, 2016

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