Fair time was always the best part of summer growing up. So many family memories are made. And photographed! Of course the photos from my years growing up were printed and (sometimes) put into a photo album. But the photos taken by families at the fair today are probably stored on your phone – or in the cloud. Most photos never make it to be printed or framed on the wall. But these photos are no less important today as they were a few years ago.

But what happens to these photos stored in the cloud? Or on our phone? What will happen to these photos when I pass away? These photos are technically a digital asset. And the time and attention we pay to digital assets is quickly increasing in the world of estate planning.

Examples of digital assets include the following:

• Photos, videos, etc. stored electronically

• Email accounts

• Voicemail accounts

• Social Media accounts (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, YouTube)

• Financial accounts

• Frequent flyer miles/hotel points/credit card rewards

• Purchasing accounts (i.e., PayPal, Apple Pay, etc.)

• Sales accounts (i.e., eBay, Etsy, etc.)

• Domain names

Some of these assets can hold a very large market value. Digital assets, and how to transfer them, is an issue estate planning professionals need to consider when crafting your estate plan. In the past, a trustee/executor might learn what bills need to be paid or where your financial accounts are located by looking at your mail. But today, many people receive their bills via email or text message. How will a trustee/executor even know where to begin?

So what do we need to do? Begin with the following:

1. Develop and maintain a list of digital assets. This can be done on a simple Excel spreadsheet or written and kept in a safe deposit box.

2. Maintain and update a list of the user names, passwords and/or encryption necessary to access the assets. Consider using an electronic app or software. Your family or Trustee/Executor then just needs to know one password to access all other accounts.

3. Provide for access to digital assets in your Power of Attorney. The law is still evolving to allow this access. This would be a last resort for a Trustee/Executor to use to gain access.

4. Provide for the transfer of these assets in your trust or will. Don’t forget this step, especially for assets that have a large monetary value or a potentially large value.

Digital assets are a new type of asset to consider. As technology develops, the need for planning for these assets will only expand.

Lora Phelps serves as a senior vice president and trust officer with Arvest Trust and Wealth Management in Joplin, Mo.


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