Your “estate” includes all of your assets. This could include assets held in your name alone or held jointly with others. It also includes property that you may not use during your lifetime, such as the proceeds from an insurance policy or retirement plan proceeds that remain at your death.
Here’s a list of the following assets that are part of your estate:
The value of your estate is the “fair market value” of all of your assets (before deducting for debts, mortgages, obligations, etc.).
The value of your estate is important in determining whether your estate will be subject to probate, subject to estate taxes after your death, and whether your beneficiaries could later be subject to capital gains taxes. It’s also important to know, and to what extent, if your estate will have the resources available to pay for your financial and medical expenses in the event of your incapacity. As part of the estate planning process, it’s crucial to ensure that there will be sufficient resources to pay for any necessary expenses and to make sure your loved ones will be taken care of.
Do your family members know what online accounts you have? Do they know how to handle them in case something were to happen to you?
More than likely, people don’t advertise to others about what digital assets they have or how those assets should be handled if something were to happen to them.
But dealing with digital assets after someone dies is becoming a challenge for families and loved ones. Family members can't just rifle through a desk anymore to find the accounts and assets because they’re mostly found online. And back in the days, pictures were carefully placed in photo albums and stored on bookshelves and coffee tables. But now, I’m sure most of you have photos stored on your smartphones, computer, or cloud storage.
Today, it’s becoming more important and necessary to plan ahead for access to your digital property (ie. passwords, online accounts, and electronically-stored information) and leave clearer instructions for your family members in your estate plan to handle your digital assets.
By creating a proper digital estate plan, you can help your family:
Here are some steps to take to get started on your digital estate plan:
About the Author
Christine Chung, Esq.