Livens & Reed, PLLC

Estate planning today also accounts for digital assets

In Texas and worldwide, the technology revolution has caused many old paradigms to fall away in the face of changing abilities and opportunities. In estate planning, a new area of digital assets is becoming more defined, while rules and procedures to appropriately process these assets during life and after death are developing. The estate planning process now includes making sure that one provides for the administration of his or her digital assets as well as the more traditional ones.

Some digital assets may have sentimental value only, whereas others may have economic worth. They may include photographs, personal poetry or books, family histories and ancestral trees, along with online bank accounts, PayPal accounts and other financial records. Other assets may include social media pages, domain names, bill payment services and records, email records and other miscellaneous items.

In one survey, people valued their online digital assets at an average worth of $55,000. It’s important to have all of your online information documented and turned over to your estate planning attorney when going over the preparation of a new plan. Alternatively, for those with existing estate plans, one should accumulate the information and take it to the attorney to update the plan. It’s best to let an experienced professional determine which online documents are of economic value or importance.

Additionally, sentimental items can be documented and provided separately to one’s executor or next of kin, with a separate letter of instructions on how to distribute or preserve such mementos. Furthermore, one’s passwords and other access information should be given to the appropriate persons. It’s entirely unnecessary to have your attorney, executor or others spending time and maybe money in trying to access or retrieve your materials.

Some experts in the field also recommend appointing a separate digital executor in your will or trust documents. This can be the same person, but in some cases, it may be more prudent to appoint a person whom one knows to be technologically proficient as well as trustworthy. Estate planning in Texas and nationwide is thus in a state of rapid change and adjustment necessitated by our increased technological capabilities.

Source:, "Arranging to bequeath valuable virtual assets is new age of estate planning", Sue Doerfler, June 28, 2014

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