Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Got some free time during the winter holidays? Take small steps to improve your financial records by documenting your digital assets. The term “digital assets” refers to personal information that is stored electronically on either a computer or an online “cloud” server.
Anyone who uses e-mail, has a password protected cell phone or iPad, uses social media, makes online purchases, or pays bills or does banking online has digital assets. Digital assets generally require a user name, password or PIN, and/or security questions to access and can be difficult or impossible to retrieve if someone is incapacitated or passes away.
You can record your digital assets using the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Digital Assets Inventory Worksheet. When you are done, keep this information in a safe place and share it only with a power of attorney, executor, and other trusted person who would need to have it. Writing everything down will also help you keep track of your digital life by itemizing account access details in one place so this information is available when needed. Below is a list of digital asset categories:
Once you have inventoried your digital assets, you are not quite done. The final step is to include specific language in estate planning documents (e.g., will, trust, and power of attorney) that authorizes a fiduciary to handle digital assets, as well as tangible assets, in the event of your death or incapacity.
Digital assets should be referred to in a will, as someone would similarly do for a list of untitled personal property. However, do not include them in a will. A will becomes a public document when someone dies, which will not keep digital asset data secure.
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