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Storage issues within estate planning for digital assets

More and more Ohio residents are aware of the need for including digital assets within their estate plan. As technology continues to advance, many people are using cloud-based storage to archive their collections, work or other assets. Along with this new technology, there is a need for new estate planning approaches.

Often, the topic of digital assets is focused around giving loved ones the ability to access items of sentimental value. For example, individuals make provisions to give children the ability to collect and move family photos, or to manage their social media accounts when the time comes. In certain cases, the assets stored online are of monetary value and should be treated in a similar manner as other asset types.

Take, for example, a photographer who has amassed an enormous collection of work that has been marketed and sold. Each photo that has been sold will have had a certain body of rights associated with that sale. One image may have been sold for one-time, exclusive use, while others may be placed for sale as stock images.

When the photographer passes away, he or she may want loved ones to have the ability to continue to profit from that body of work. However, if the photos are preserved in a form of cloud-based storage, it can be difficult for loved ones to know how to access those assets. In such cases, having a clearly defined estate planning package is critical to making it easier for surviving family members to navigate in the weeks and months following a loss.

One way to accomplish this goal is to include digital assets within the larger estate planning process. This can mean leaving behind a list of online assets and their location, as well as information needed to access those files. It is also important to include digital assets within one's will, so that the new owner(s) will be able to assume control over those files. Finally, some Ohio residents will elect to create a backup of online assets by using media such as an external hard drive, disks or stick drives.

Source:, "Commentary: Estate planning for digital assets", Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb, Nov. 13, 2015

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