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Estate Planning for Digital Assets: Managing Your Online Presence

Have you ever taken the time to think about your future? With all that is going on in your life that may prove to be difficult. You have a family, work, responsibilities, and interests outside of wills and estate planning matters. What’s more- estate planning is not a pleasant subject to think about. Why not put it off until a later date when you have less gone on and more of an attention span to devote to this type of subject? Today may not feel like the right day to start your estate planning process.

The problem with having this mindset is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. I hate to be so blunt at the beginning of today’s blog post, but the reality of the situation is that you may not find yourself in a position to update your estate plan or even create one for the first time unless you do so today. Or, at the very least, make plans to do so today. The last thing you want to do is to wait around and not be able to attend to important matters like estate planning when you can do so.

It may take setting aside some time, but it is well worth the effort to begin investigating issues related to estate planning. Even if you do not have much money or much in the way of assets it is a good idea to have an estate plan that at least contains a will. That way you can give instructions to an executor who will oversee the will and the distribution of assets and the payments of debt in your name. This can be a lasting action on your part that can give your family peace of mind if you do pass away unexpectedly or suddenly. You can do this but need to take action and move forward today to be best situated.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan has a team of attorneys who work with clients on matters related to estate planning. We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video where we can work with you to answer questions and then, if you choose to work with our office, eventually provide you with guidance regarding the specifics of your situation. Your needs come first when you hire the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Digital assets and cryptocurrency investments

One of the most noteworthy types of investment opportunities that have developed in the past few years has to do with online/digital assets and cryptocurrency. You may be familiar with some of the different denominations of money known as “Bitcoin” as being all over the news. These are kinds of currency that are not tied to a central bank but rather held in digital wallets owned by individuals like you. The value of an individual “coin” tends to fluctuate greatly from week to week or even day to day due to the volatility in this emerging market.

In recent years, some people have run into issues regarding their crypto investments. For one, we have already mentioned the volatility in the market for cryptocurrency. For years the value of cryptocurrency only seemed to increase. Up and up was the direction that crypto was going. Now, however, the markets have slowed, and the value of a single coin has decreased by as much as 50% in recent months. This is not a comment on whether you should invest in cryptocurrency. For that, you can speak with an experienced investment strategist and planner. For our purposes, the volatility of the crypto market is relevant because it speaks to how need to have a plan on how to manage your digital investments so that if the sudden or unthinkable happens to you, then your family or executor of your will can oversee the division of those assets successfully.

Estate planning is not just for rich people with their money in stocks and bonds. Estate planning is necessary for every adult and especially for those who have well-diversified investments like you seem to. By reading this far into a blog post on cryptocurrency I can deduce that you are someone who may have well-diversified investments but who has not thought through what would happen to those investments in the event of an accident or anything else that led to an end-of-life situation. This is important to consider. It is not something that you necessarily have to dwell upon, but it is something that you need to consider.

Performing research on how your coins are stored is another good idea. You want to maximize security and ease of use. It doesn't help you if the coins are kept in the most secure digital wallet around, but you cannot access them when you want to use them or trade them. There are different options available for you as far as where you store them. Spend some time looking into these options and be intentional about what option you choose. Once you have selected an option for coin storage you should make sure that someone knows the location. This could be a family member, executor of your will, or anyone else that you trust.

For the time being, if you do not have a will yet, you should store the login and passwords for these digital wallets in a private location, but, make sure someone like your spouse is aware of their location. This would be akin to someone burying money in a dozen coffee cans and spreading them all over their property. If that person's family couldn't find the cash, then the money is worthless to them. The same can be said for you and your cryptocurrency in today's day and age. Don't make this a guessing game for your family. People spend years looking through old computers for their Bitcoin wallets in search of old cryptocurrency. This is such a painstaking task that most people are not equipped to do this. Not to mention that this would be going on while your family is grieving your loss. Don’t let that be your legacy.

Many times, a person will get into cryptocurrency investing if you believe that the financial systems of the world economies are unstable. I don’t know if that is a belief of yours since I don’t know you. However, it is not a good idea to be skeptical of sharing information with your loved ones regarding crypto. There is no benefit to you working hard and saving up for these investments if those coming after you cannot use or take advantage of them. It is a good idea for you to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney about keeping account names, logins and passwords in your estate planning documents so there is no doubt about where to locate these coins or wallets.

Social media as an estate planning asset

Another type of digital asset that has become more relevant in this day and age is that of a social media account. Way back when social media first became a thing about twenty years ago, people used social media in completely different ways. Social media used to be just a way for people to communicate with relatives and friends who did not live close enough to see regularly. It was a simpler time, to be sure.

Now, social media has grown beyond the use of it to keep up with extended family across the country. Now, social media is a full-on reality in and of itself. It's no wonder that the originator of social media, Facebook, now has a parent company named Meta. These social media companies have become a legitimate counter-society to the real world that we all live in. You can create a true virtual and digital reality for yourself on these social media websites. Whether you enjoy posting photos, debating politics, taking part in conspiracy theories, or, yes, keeping up with extended family there is a social media website for you.

Along with social media websites as social tools, these social media platforms are also important as being part of the business strategies for companies around the world. Seemingly every large company and corporation has some sort of online presence. Even the most well-established brands compete for online visibility. Online marketing has overtaken radio, television, and print advertising for highly coveted spaces to display advertisements and hawk new products. In short, social media fits in with all the different types of online advertising that exists.

How can your social media profile or persona fit into this arrangement? Many people work as social media influencers. Their profiles advertise not only the brands of companies or other people but their own special and unique opinions, fashion sense and products. If you are someone who has made money off of your social media profile not only is your account worth something, you need to make sure that the profiles are accounted for in your estate planning. Login and passwords for your social media accounts should be noted in your will. If you have any existing relationships with businesses that is also information that you can list in your will for an executor to contact after your passing.

Keep in mind that you can always update your will once any of these changes. If you stop using social media, change business relationships or have any other change come about then you can and should update your will to reflect those changes. What you are trying to do is keep things straightforward for your spouse, executor and anyone else who will be responsible for keeping tabs on this information once you pass away.

Creating a viable estate plan- how an attorney can help you

This is the age of do it yourself everything. We have so much access to information that you could probably find everything that you need to know about drafting a will on social media, for example. We have videos that talk extensively about estate planning and provide information to anyone who is willing to listen. You can do everything that we described in today’s blog post without the assistance of an attorney. However, you need to consider what your best options are when it comes to creating a will that conforms to your needs and to the changing landscape of the law. Build your own will websites are everywhere and they are convenient. However, what they cannot do is keep up to date with every small change in the law. They also cannot understand you, your family’s needs and what your goals are for the will drafting process. All they can do is spit out a will when you give them certain inputs. That’s it. To think otherwise would be a mistake.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan allows you to keep up to date with the changes in the laws governing the creation of wills and trusts. Each legislative session new laws are passed. At any time, judge made laws from probate courts are handed down which can change how the law is practiced on week-to-week basis. These are updates that occur every moment of nearly every day. A website most likely cannot keep up with those changes. A website is, at best, gong to take the estate plan that you want to create and put that into writing.

You are better off collecting as much information as you can from an attorney who has served many people in Texas who have similar goals as you do. You may be able to fine tune the goals that you already have. Additionally, you may be able to gain additional information about the will drafting process that can influence your goals and how you set about to reach those goals. A website is not going to do any of this for you. Rather, a website takes what you already know (which could be very little) and puts it into a word processor and comes back with a will. While the will make look nice and have all the fancy language you would associate with a will, there is no telling as to how the will actually suits your family.

For that, you would have to plan on working through the issues with an attorney over some discussions. A good attorney will be able to help you understand the law. Not only that, but a good attorney will also help you understand the law in terms of how it impacts you and your family as well as how it can benefit you all. There are ways to keep as much money and property in your estate as possible without giving too much to the government in the form of taxes. You can also see to it that your will establishes exactly how you want your estate to be divided up.

This is an underreported and underrated aspect of estate planning. Many people do not acknowledge the simple truth that without a will your estate will be left in the hands of a probate court judge. The judge follows the estates code and divides property in the estate according to the code unless you have debt that first needs to be paid. This is not ideal and is probably not how you envisioned the property distribution process going when you were working hard towards building an estate of this size. Unfortunately, without a will your wishes become a moot point.

Crypto and digital assets- plan, plan and then plan some more

The thing about digital investments is that the sort of assets that you own can change rapidly both in terms of their form and their value. If you began investing in cryptocurrency on a whim or because you saw someone else doing it that probably was not the best decision to make but it is where you are right now. Unless or until you trade or sell those assets you need to account for them in your estate planning. This means being diligent and having as much of a plan as you possibly can. If you wandered into cryptocurrency investing the best way to take these investments into account is by working with an experienced estate planning attorney.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you in this way. We can walk with you through your questions and help you decide on the best path to take when it comes to your estate planning needs. We understand that your estate planning scenario is not the same as anyone else's. As a result, we would work with you to create a plan that considers all your investments, the dynamics of your family and whatever goals you have.

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Other Related Articles:

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  2. The Role of a Texas Estate Planning Attorney in Probate and Estate Planning
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  11. Texas Estate Planning, Divorce and Protecting Assets
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