Estates & Wills & Trusts

Digital assets an increasingly important part of estate planning

By Mia Clarke, Associate Editor

Accounting for digital assets is becoming a bigger part of estate planning as people do more and more online, Toronto litigator Matthew Urback tells Law Times.

“I haven’t seen it addressed all that much yet and I think it’s something that’s going to become a much bigger issue than it already is in the coming years just because of the prevalence of digital assets,” says Urback, a civil and commercial litigator with Shibley Righton LLP’s Toronto office.

The assets include email and social media accounts, says the online legal publication, noting that “many people fail to identify those parts of their lives in their estate and risk the loss of control over their online identity as well as accounts that could have some significant value.”

The largely paperless, online assets could also include valuable ones like cryptocurrency, and if the owner doesn’t specify where the assets are and how to access them, it’s like they don't exist, says Urback.

“It might be worth it to appoint an executor, an estate trustee that is exclusively in charge of all your digital assets and all of your electronic holdings,” he says.

“If you lose it, you lose it, that’s it. So, you’ve got to make sure you’re passing on that information ... so they can access it after you’re gone,” Urback says.

“Whoever you’re putting in charge of all of that, especially if you have a lot of Bitcoin, you’re giving them an immense amount of power.”

And he warns against putting access information in the will since it’s a public document. Instead, Urback suggests giving that information directly to the executor.

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