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Idaho Estate Planning Dealing With Digital Assets

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

If you’ve ever talked to anyone who is dealing with the estate of a family member or loved one who has passed away, you will often hear them talking about all the stuff the person owned. Maybe you had this experience yourself. Really, the amount of physical and tangible property and things a person can accumulate over a lifetime is amazing. Not everyone is this way but, most people are. 

The same thing is true of digital property, or digital assets that a person can own. Because we live in a digital age, it’s easy for these kinds of things to accumulate as well. Like tangible property, often times these things lay stored, and unused for many years. However, when it comes to estate planning, and especially when it comes to dealing with these assets after a person has passed away, it’s important that there be a clear plan in place. 

The premier team of Idaho estate planning attorneys at the Racine law office have helped individuals with their estate plans for more than 70 years. When the digital age began in the early 90s, our team of attorneys kept up on all applicable laws and strategies to help each of our clients with their own personal plan. Our partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson, and attorneys Nathan Palmer and Dave Bagley create our award-winning Idaho Estate Planning team of attorneys who can help you.  

When it comes to digital assets, most states have not kept up with laws that will help. The good news is that Idaho has. Specifically, Idaho has enacted several statutes and laws that make it easy for an individual to use their estate plan to allow for the control and distribution of digital assets both during a person’s lifetime and after they have passed away.  

The purpose of this article is to describe what digital assets actually are. This article then describes how your family can access your digital assets while you are alive. Finally, this article will describe what happens to your digital assets and how your family can deal with them after you have passed away. 

What are Digital Assets?

So, what exactly are digital assets? Most people are surprised to learn that their email, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts are all digital assets. In addition to these, many people nowadays have online or digital money accounts as well. These could include things such as PayPal, peer-to-peer lending, investment accounts, banking accounts, and so forth. But this is not all. A person could actually have online businesses that exist, and they will likely also have accounts they use to buy or purchase things such as at Amazon, Walmart, or other online retailers. 

The bottom line is that whatever accounts you have, regardless of what they are or where they are located, or what their purpose is all of these things are considered digital assets that are owned by you. 

While you are alive and in good health, this isn’t a problem. The main reason for this is because you are usually using these accounts on a regular basis for your social media, your money transfers, for purchases and/or for businesses. Because you are the one that’s using them you have the ability to access them and deal with them the same as any other type of asset that you own. 

Access by Your Family/Loves Ones While You are Alive.

But what happens while you are alive if you suddenly become unable to do these things. For example, suppose that you have an illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that makes it so you’re no longer capable of handling these types of things online. What happens to these accounts then? 

Under the law of most states, an individual has the ability to create a durable power of attorney which gives authority to another person to do all the same things the individual normally did for themselves when they were capable. This includes dealing with money, property, and assets, including digital assets in all their forms and varieties. 

The real key though is making sure that the person you have chosen through your durable power of attorney knows where these accounts are located and how to access them. For this reason, we usually suggest that our clients create a handwritten list of all their digital accounts. The reason we suggested this be handwritten is so that the usernames and login information isn’t located anywhere digitally that could be stolen. 

The handwritten list of digital accounts and assets should be kept in a safe place. It could easily be kept with all the other estate planning documents that you have. This then assures that your family will know the digital assets that you own, and how to access and use them for your behalf while you are alive. 

Access by our Family/Loves Ones After You Die.

This same access will also be important for your family after you pass away. Through your last will and testament you will have chosen who your personal representative will be. After you pass away, this person is the individual who is given legal authority to access all of your property, money, assets, and so forth in order to properly deal with them. 

Outside of your last will and testament, on your handwritten list of digital accounts and assets, you can provide specific instructions about how those accounts are to be handled after you pass away. In other words, you provide all the information about how to access the accounts, you can provide information about how these accounts are to be handled after your death, and you can be specific about how your digital assets are to be distributed after your death as well. 

It is true that the estate planning laws concerning digital assets are quickly evolving but the reality is that They are not as difficult to follow as you may think.  By completing the simple steps listed above, you will be comforted in knowing that your digital assets are protected and can be used for your benefit while you are alive, and that you can pass them on to your loved ones along with your regular assets after you pass away.

We have assisted numerous clients in dealing with their digital assets as part of their regular estate planning and we are confident that we can help you too. 

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney To Help You

  Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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