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Account for digital assets in Kent estate plans

Readers in the greater Seattle area may have taken note of some previous discussions regarding the importance of including one's digital assets in an estate plan. Over the past several months, the federal government has been encouraging people to compile a list of digital accounts and passwords to keep with other important estate documents. An organized and comprehensive list of digital accounts can greatly simplify the job of one's personal representative during estate administration.

Many digital assets have obvious value, such as online banking or investment accounts. Although account information will not be absolutely necessary for a personal representative to access and distribute assets from these types of accounts, the simplicity of online account management can help spare unnecessary time and expense in probate proceedings.

Some digital assets have purely personal value, such as social media and email accounts. Providing account information to one's estate representative can give family members an opportunity to preserve digital information, such as images and correspondence that carry the same significance in the digital age as letters and photographs held prior to the rise of computer technology.

Other types of digital assets, however, may have financial value that might not be readily apparent. For example, the email correspondences of a well-known individual might have value to collectors or others who might profit from their contents, such as a journalist or biographer.

Other types of digital assets have more obvious commercial value, such as business information. In those cases, the assets should be clearly identified for the estate representative because a professional appraisal may be necessary to ensure that they are not over-valued or improperly excluded from inheritance taxes.

Washingtonians may benefit from taking the time to thoroughly inventory their digital assets and make sure that they are accounted for appropriately in estate plans.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Digital assets often forgotten during estate planning," Aug. 29, 2012

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