Over the last two decades, digital assets have seen a surge in popularity. From a movie collection that people stream from cloud storage to an online store an individual has built from the ground up, these digital properties represent a significant portion of a person’s collected assets. For this reason, most people are sure to add references to digital assets in their estate plan.
The estate plan is a series of documents created to ensure surviving loved ones follow an individual’s end of life wishes. From detailing the distribution of assets to heirs in a will to specifying financial protections in a trust, people design a comprehensive estate plan to prevent disputes and alleviate delays in the probate process. One crucial element of the plan is the determination of powers of attorney (POA).
What is power of attorney?
In general, a power of attorney is authority given to an individual the testator trusts to make decisions when the creator of the estate plan is incapacitated. These decisions commonly fall into the realms of medical or financial. A recent movement, however, has started to include a “digital assets power of attorney.”
What would this person do?
Much like a medical power of attorney, a digital assets power of attorney will focus strictly in one area. In this case, on the testator’s online properties. This might include:
- Online accounts
- File hosting
- Website management
- Operating blogs and social networking
Like the medical or financial POA, an individual can lay out a series of instructions, goals or guidelines for these digital assets. The instructions might include a status update to include across all social media describing the situation in his or her own words, files the POA should remove or a succession plan to install for an online storefront. These instructions can be as general or detailed as necessary.
No matter your health, wealth or age, crafting a comprehensive estate plan is essential. Individuals should take the time to clearly describe both the distribution of assets and any end of life wishes in this series of legal documents. Doing so can prevent unnecessary familial disputes and harmful probate delays.