Digital property (or digital assets) can be understood as any information about you or created by you that exists in digital form, either online or on an electronic storage device, including the information necessary to access the digital asset. All of your digital property comprises what is known as your digital estate.
For the purposes of digital estate planning, digital property can be broken down into three main categories:
Personal digital property
Personal digital property with monetary value
Digital business property
Personal digital property includes:
Computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices
Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device
Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage
Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own
According to a survey conducted earlier in 2019, only 40% of American adults have a Will or Trust. That percentage drops dramatically for younger age groups. For example, only 19% of people ages 18-34 have a Will or Trust.
So what’s the big deal?
As Baby Boomers pass away, experts predict that over $68 trillion (with a ‘trill’) in wealth will be transferred over the next 25 years. And the estate planning of those Boomers will control where all that wealth goes.
Despite the hugeness of those numbers and the importance of estate planning, it is easy to procrastinate when it comes to actually setting your affairs in order. Here are the top 7 reasons (in no particular order) people give us to explain why they delay estate planning:
First of all, you are never too young to have an estate plan. I wrote a series of articles specifically geared toward estate planning for Millennials. (Or you can substitute “Millennials” for “Gen Z” or whatever weird thing we are on now.)
Whenever young people say “I don’t have enough assets for an estate plan” or “I’m going to wait until I have a family,” what they are really saying is, “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.” Because young people don’t die, they live forever.
When I was a kid, I really wanted a remote-controlled hovercraft.
I thought it looks awesome. I mean, just the idea of a flying remote-controlled car was amazing. So I saved up my money and bought one. Can you guess what happened next?
If you said, “I used it a few times and then never touched it again,” then you would be correct. The thing took like 37 hours to charge and you could only use it for two minutes until you had to charge it again.
I was really upset about it at the time. I kept thinking, “If only I could exchange this toy for another!” Unfortunately for me, Toys “R” Us hates children and refused to give me my money back. And that’s why I became a lawyer. For justice.
Here’s the good news: there is no Toy “R” Us return policy for your estate planning documents. You can update them, change, exchange, or revoke them entirely as long as you are alive and competent (with a few exceptions).
Some attorneys may try to convince you that your Will or Trust needs to be amended whenever you go through any significant life change. Buy a new house? Amend your Trust. Have a grandchild? Amend your Will. Finish binge watching Friends? Amend, amend, amend.
Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?
Of course not. They are scientifically impossible. Just a way to keep kids quiet on long road trips.
But you’ve definitely seen a Rubik’s Cube at some point. And although the concept seems simple enough—get the same colors on the same side of the cube—all the moving parts and three-dimensional reactions make your brain hurt.
Estate planning sometimes seems like a Rubik’s Cube.
You have all of these lengthy legal documents with strange words that do all sorts of different things that an attorney explained to you once but which you have now mostly forgotten.
Take trusts, for instance. You generally get a trust to avoid probate. But by itself, a trust is just some paper. It may be fancy paper—and it’s likely expensive paper—but it’s still just some paper. And paper alone usually does not avoid probate.
Real property (which I will use interchangeably with “real estate”) is often the most valuable type of asset a client owns. That makes it all the more important for those assets to avoid probate.
How do you do that? By funding your trust.
Everybody knows what a “bucket list” is, right?
It’s a list (duh) of things you want to do before you die (i.e. “kick the bucket”). I won’t get into the weeds about the concept, so if you want to learn more about bucket lists and also ugly-cry through two boxes of Kleenex, watch the 2007 film The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.
But back to the blog.
Just as you and Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson have a bucket list for life, you should also have a bucket list for estate planning. Ask yourself: What do I need to do to arrange my affairs before I die?
Estate planning is about more than just legal documents. A good plan means accounting for your assets and providing the information, documents, and knowledge necessary to ensure a smooth transfer of those assets to the people you want to have them.
To help you create your own estate planning bucket list, here are 10 tips you can use to organize your estate before you die:
Of course the first item on the bucket list is to create an actual estate plan. I’m an estate planning attorney writing on an estate planning blog. What did you expect?
Formal estate planning documents such as a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust are crucial to make the administration of your estate as easy as possible. Without them, your estate could be tied up in messy probate — in some cases for years.