Once upon a time, playing games on your phone was just a pastime. In today’s world, it is common for individuals to own companies that produce such games, and the games themselves, once produced. On a smaller scale, many people today own intangible items on their electronic devices and held “in the cloud.” In such situations, these “assets” are digital property that deserve the amount of protection you’d give a brick-and-mortar company.
What is digital property?
Digital property consists of items owned that are not necessarily tangible. I’m referring to blogs, selfies, MP4 music files, video clips, games, ads, Netflix and more continues to grow in popularity. Consumers of all ages own at least one piece of digital property — usually the photos found on your phone have been snapped by you or by someone you know under your permission.
Without the proper safeguards in place, however, what you may feel is personal to you could be easily stolen and passed off as free-to-share files. Easy solutions include keeping your devices locked or removing anything you wouldn’t want in the hands of anyone else. But what happens if you are unable to make such decisions? Like other assets that you’d want to be placed in good hands upon your demise, digital property should be included in your estate planning.
For those who have digital property worth price-tagging — such as a money-making website, original music, photography and other related property, you’ll want to understand how important estate planning can be.
Here are three reasons to include your digital property in the planning of your estate:
Digital assets are property, too.
This means your files can be protected under a power of attorney, trustee of a trust or an executor or administrator of an estate. Anyone wishing to access protected digital assets must be granted permission by a court of law. A guardian will usually be the person to receive the rights to access your digital assets. In addition, with new technologies emerging each year, expect to witness an explosion in digital property, and the case for protecting it all. This could be anything from how-to manuals for the latest app, to news copy written for CNN about said app and even podcasts dedicated to the same app.
Digital asset protection makes business sense.
If you have hired someone (say, as a copywriter or social media manager, for example) to create original content, if he or she is no longer able to do the work for you, changes career paths or passes away, how will you locate the files? You’d be surprised how many in upper management do not have access to passwords! And even if they did, they would still face the challenges of finding every piece of news, imagery, video transcripts, etc.
Experts agree that most workplaces do not understand how problematic things could become if a document created for your organization were found in a Google search and used by the competition. Your digital assets designed for your business are among those valuables to include in your estate planning.
You can choose to NOT share your digital assets with anyone.
It’s sometimes better to keep some things to yourself! Perhaps you’ve penned a tell-all e-book but you’re now having second thoughts about publishing it. That manuscript can’t be left in the “cloud”! The intelligence that hackers possess today is frightening. It’s your property, therefore, you have a right to take it to the grave, even virtually!
Protecting your digital assets includes keeping your files away from everyone! During the estate planning process, you can elect to not have your digital assets disclosed to a fiduciary following your death or in the event of an illness that could keep you from speaking up and making sound decisions about your property.
Whatever you have saved on your devices (your phone, laptop, tablet, drives, etc.) is an important piece of your life’s journey. Your digital assets are as important to protect as your vehicles, home, business and pets. As you reach out to our office to prepare and plan your estate, remember some of those prized possessions you cannot hold.
Keep in mind, some images shared on social media becomes public domain. This means they may no longer belong to only you and protecting them might be, frankly put, a waste of time and resources. But don’t worry. Our attorneys have seen it before. We are positioned to help you discover the laws regarding the protections of such digital assets. Give us a call. We would love to help!