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Digital assets are a forgotten part of estate planning

When someone in Oklahoma creates a will or trust, it is usually fairly straightforward to determine how that person's belongings will be distributed when he or she passes away. While a will may direct the inheritance of digitized items like computers and smart phones, an important part of one's digital life is often overlooked during estate planning. In other words, a will may pass along a computer to an heir, but the heir may not have a legal right to the information on that device.

Digital assets can include information of financial value or sentimental attachment. Sentimental items like social media posts and stored pictures may be password protected and as difficult to access as financial accounts. Those financial assets may include frequent flier miles, PayPal accounts, BitCoin, downloaded books and music, and small business income. These may by guarded by privacy laws and other protections.

Some digital assets are not legally transferrable, which means a person may not be able to simply include those assets in a will. While many estate plans treat digital information the same as tangible assets, state laws do not always agree. Lately, however, some states are allowing estate executors and other fiduciaries to have access to the accounts if that access is granted in a person's will or trust. Wills and trusts must have clear, specific language regarding access to digital assets.

Additionally, to assist fiduciaries in carrying out their wishes regarding the use or deactivation of digital accounts, a detailed list of accounts and passwords should be included with an estate plan. To ensure one's wishes are compatible with Oklahoma law, consulting an estate planning attorney is often invaluable. A lawyer can provide advice and guidance for every aspect of estate planning.

Source: investmentnews.com, "Most estate plans aren't dealing with digital assets properly", Jamie Hopkins, May 11, 2017

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