Estates include more than just physical assets and financial accounts. Even if you avoid spending time behind your computer screen, you probably still have a virtual footprint. You might have kept family photographs in an iCloud account, managed your business’s social media feed, or invested in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency. These assets, taken together, could be considered part of your digital estate.
While Louisiana law has yet to account for the diversity of digital holdings, you still have options to protect your digital estate after death.
The Digital Estate
You do not need to be a prolific cryptocurrency investor or website manager to have a digital estate: a Facebook profile, Instagram account, or iCloud album could all be considered digital assets.
Your digital estate could include:
- A cryptocurrency investment account
- Online bank accounts such as a PayPal profile or TransferWise balance
- Social media accounts
- A personal blog, digital journal, or virtual chat history
- Photographs stored in a cloud server or encrypted drive
While most people do not have financially valuable digital estates, they may still want their family members to take control of their virtual assets once they have passed away.
Digital Estate Planning in Louisiana
Across the country, legislators have passed new laws to make digital estate planning easier than ever. However, Louisiana remains one of a very few states that has no digital estate planning infrastructure. This means, any Louisiana resident who wants to protect their virtual assets must do so within the confines of a framework that was not necessarily made for the realities of the Internet Age.
Digital estate planners usually advise clients to consider their options under the following models:
- The Inventory Model. People who own few digital assets or do not want to transfer the entirety of their digital estate upon death, could simply create an “inventory” of their digital estate by listing out their different account usernames, passwords, and other pertinent log-in information. The inventoried information could be affixed to a traditional will or written as a separate “digital will.” You should always speak to an estate planning attorney before creating or combining wills, as the user “terms of service” for certain accounts may preclude intergenerational transfers. Ideally, your inventory should be stored in a safe, secure location that will still be easily accessible by your heirs after you pass away.
- The Trust Model. Digital assets that are transferrable or financially valuable could be bundled into a revocable living trust. You could, for instance, transfer the contents or key to a cryptocurrency wallet into a trust. The trust could then manage, re-invest, or disburse the proceeds upon your death.
Depending on how you want to organize your digital estate, you may have to nominate a “digital executor” who will be responsible for handling your assets after your death and transferring control of any accounts to the intended heir or beneficiaries. While most people name a trusted friend or family member as their digital executor, doing so carries some risks. If you want to spare your loved ones the inconvenience or embarrassment of combing through your private accounts, you could delegate the responsibility to a Louisiana estate planning attorney.
Why You Might Need a Digital Estate Plan
Since Louisiana law has yet to account for digital estates, an individual’s failure to include their virtual assets in a traditional estate plan could create unexpected problems.
While Louisiana succession courts have special processes to disburse the estates of people who did not have a will or trust, they may not be able to govern the transference of virtual assets that are governed by corporate “terms of service” agreements rather than probate laws and statutes.
If you have treasured family photographs, a funded PayPal account, or profitable cryptocurrency wallet, your loved ones could lose out on the memories, money, and convenience that come with a well-planned estate.
Speak to an Experienced Professional
Planning a digital estate is not always easy, especially when you have valuable virtual assets. However, you should still account for your digital estate in a traditional will or trust. A Louisiana succession planning attorney could help ensure that your digital assets are protected by law and compliant with individual companies’ terms of service agreements governing intergenerational account transfers and changes in custody.
If you need help planning your digital estate, do not take your chances with a court system that was not designed to accommodate virtual assets. Send Scott Vicknair Law a message online today to get started on your case.