How digital assets complicate estate planning

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2023 | Estate Administration

A few decades ago, someone who had a movie collection may have bought numerous VHS tapes. Someone who was interested in building up a nice music collection may have purchased thousands of dollars worth of records, along with a record player.

These collections could be very valuable, from a financial perspective, especially if there were any rare items included. The collection could also have a lot of sentimental value to someone’s heirs. Children would remember watching movies or listening to music with their parents, and they would want to own that same collection.

How times have changed

Over the years, though, the type of media that people use has significantly changed. These days, many people will buy digital products when purchasing video games, movies, TV shows, musical recordings, soundtracks and much more. They still have the same collections and they like the same types of entertainment – movies and music, for example– but the formats are much different.

This can make it very complicated to put these items into an estate plan. In fact, in many cases, consumers don’t actually own the digital products that they buy. Instead, they pay the company that does own those products for a license. The terms of this license stipulate that it can’t be passed to anyone else, so the collection could be entirely lost.

As digital technology becomes more and more common, the issues noted above could be just the tip of the iceberg. It certainly shows why people need to understand all of their options when doing modern estate planning, allowing them to explore all potential solutions.