Gift and Estate Planning in the Digital Age

The rapidly increasing use of “digital files” – on smartphones or computers – is something to take into account as you advise prospects on estate planning. 

Consider the situation presented the Seattle Times article first published on January 7. An estate planning attorney describes a common approach to investigating the value of an estate – looking in filing cabinets for documentation and monitoring mail for statements.  Now, that same attorney finds that families don’t have the “electronic keys” necessary to uncover some of the assets of their deceased relatives – these keys being passwords, access, and even knowledge that some assets exist. Even tax records, when filed electronically, may be unavailable to families interested in estate finalization.

This relatively new consideration enforces the long-held priority of gift planners to ensure that surviving relatives are aware of life income gift details and bequest intentions, when possible.

If assisting your prospect with an asset inventory of any kind, there are some items you might want to add to your checklist:

  • Owned domain names and expiration dates (as well as intent to sell or re-purchase)

  • Blogs with advertising revenue

  • Other online business or virtual real estate

We’d be very interested to know if any of the above digital assets have been offered to your organization as gifts, whether outright or to fund a life income arrangement.