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Understanding the basics of digital assets in probate

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2024 | Probate |

With today’s technology, our properties extend beyond the physical and can now be in the form of digital assets. In the context of estates, digital assets include any online accounts or files stored on digital devices, such as online banking accounts, cryptocurrency and similar investments.  Accordingly, these digital assets can form part of an estate’s administration upon the owner’s passing.

If you are a beneficiary of an estate with digital assets, here are key points you should be aware of regarding their management in probate:

Inventory of digital assets

As a beneficiary, you should ensure that your deceased loved one left a comprehensive list of their digital assets, including the necessary access information like usernames, passwords and answers to security questions. These details are essential for the estate executor or administrator to properly inventory all the decedent’s assets and ensure a smooth-flowing distribution.

Understanding access rights

Different digital platforms, such as banks, may have varying policies regarding access after an account holder’s death. Some may grant access to designated individuals, while others may not due to privacy concerns. Hence, it is best to research about the process and communicate with the proper authorities to address this matter.

Considerations with complex online assets

If your deceased loved one owned cryptocurrency or operated an online business, managing them may involve different legal and tax considerations since they are complex assets. For instance, the value of digital currencies like Bitcoin can fluctuate rapidly and the worth of an online business may depend on several factors, such as revenue, web traffic and intellectual property.

Efforts to maintain privacy and security

Maintaining your loved one’s privacy and the security of their digital assets is crucial to prevent identity theft and other fraudulent activities, especially while the probate process is ongoing.

Managing digital assets in probate requires careful planning, legal assistance and sensitivity to the decedent’s digital legacy. As a beneficiary, you should work with the executor to ensure they manage and distribute these assets according to your deceased loved one’s wishes.

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