Digital Asset Planning in Minneapolis
Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys in St. Paul and Throughout Minnesota
It can be difficult to fathom how much of our lives we store on digital drives and the Internet. You probably have a surprising amount of valuable, sentimental, and important digital assets living in the cloud or locked behind passwords on your computer.
In traditional estate planning, it can be easy and straightforward to decide that a loved one will receive a beloved heirloom or a family vehicle. It may be more challenging to determine how to make your digital assets accessible and left behind in a way that is consistent with your interests.
Our experienced lawyers at Guttman Law can assist you with all forms of digital asset planning in Minneapolis. We can help you prepare for what will happen to all of your data, including online accounts, password-protected files, digitally stored media, and more.
What Does Digital Asset Planning Help Me Protect?
The reality is that we are living more and more of our lives online. We conduct financial transactions digitally, store records of treasured memories in the cloud, and create businesses that function entirely on the Internet.
You should not assume that your loved ones will have the means to access these digital files and accounts once you are gone. While many predominantly digital firms have begun to institute policies addressing transfers of ownership, access is by no means guaranteed without proactive planning. Laws governing digital property and asset planning are still developing and, in many cases, do not adequately account for loved ones looking to recover digital assets from a recently passed or incapacitated loved one.
Digital asset planning can help you protect:
- Access to social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
- Access to email accounts
- Access to exclusively online bank accounts
- Access to encrypted drives or computers
- Financial records and other important digitally stored records
- Cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin
- Domain names and assets for websites
- Digitally stored photographs, videos, and other forms of media
- Online businesses, including monetized video channels and blogs
- Non-fungible tokens
How Do I Overcome the Emerging Challenges Involving Digital Asset Planning?
In theory, a digital asset stored online or on a drive is no different than a physical object. In practice, leaving someone a digital asset in a will or trust does not accomplish much if they cannot actually access the asset in question.
In many cases, the main obstacle preventing access to a loved one’s digital asset is a simple password. We frequently use passwords and passcodes to protect our computers, phones, and online accounts, but without these passwords or the means to easily reset them, there is often little hope of accessing the device in question. Computer experts may be able to break certain types of passwords on older devices, but increasingly sophisticated encryption software is now used to protect data stored on newer types of hardware, including smartphones. This means that it will be near impossible to access the digital assets on, say, an iPhone, without its passcode.
Criminal and data privacy laws have also been slow to catch up to the realities of how digital assets intersect with estate planning. State and federal statutes forbid the unauthorized access of computer systems, data drives, or online accounts. Federal law also requires that online platforms not transfer ownership of or access to electronic data without permission. Though these laws are well-meaning, they can often prevent loved ones from accessing a deceased loved one’s devices and accounts.
How Do I Build My Estate Plan in the Digital Age?
With proactive planning, you can work to ensure that your loved ones and chosen beneficiaries will be able to access your digital assets in a way that is consistent with your final wishes. We are familiar with how to effectively protect your data and can guide you through the process of digital asset planning in Minneapolis.
Our experienced estate planning attorneys can assist you with:
- Making an Inventory. Only you are qualified to evaluate what you own online and where you can find your digital assets. It is important that you create an exhaustive list of all of your data and files and where they can be located. Certain elements, like your public social media accounts or online business, will be obvious, but you will also need to make clear where you have stored important records and private files on physical devices. Remember, you will need to clarify where physical drives and computers can be found if assets are stored locally.
- Creating a Password Database. Your beneficiaries will likely not be able to access your digital assets unless they have updated passwords and passcodes for devices and online accounts. You will need to create and maintain a thorough list of all passwords. There are online password organization tools that can help you stay organized and track changes. It may also be wise to maintain a written, paper copy in case there is any trouble accessing a master password site.
- Backing Up Your Data. Many do not realize that digital data degrades similarly to how a piece of paper withers over time. Computers and drives, especially older devices, can become corrupted or experience other critical failures. And while cloud services purport to be a solution to hardware catastrophes, their services are still subject to malfunctions, human error, and data disasters. Ideally, you should plan to back up multiple copies of all of your important and valuable data in multiple places. Centralizing your most important files can be useful, and it can be wise to diversify your backup strategies. For example, you might place all of your most pertinent files on a local computer, a hard drive, and a cloud service.
- Formalizing Legal Consent. Even with accurate passwords, loved ones and beneficiaries can still run into legal obstacles when it comes to claiming ownership of certain types of digital assets, including domain names, websites and website content, and online businesses. To guarantee access and a smooth transfer of ownership, you will need to provide express authorization in your other estate planning documents. We can help you include these consents and authorizations in your will or trusts. Our team can also augment your power of attorney authorization to verify that your chosen agent has the legal authority to access and manage your digital assets.
Our experienced team of estate planning attorneys at Guttman Law are committed to providing you with the peace of mind that you and your loved ones deserve. When you meet with our team, we will review what types of digital assets you are looking to protect and walk you through how our services can help incorporate them into a new or existing estate plan.