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Can digital assets go into your estate plan? 

On Behalf of | Apr 27, 2021 | Estate Planning |

More and more often, people are buying digital assets. Instead of physical movies on DVD, physical books or vinyl albums and music CDs, they own digital copies they have to access online.

This is not the same as a streaming service. Clearly, if you pay for a monthly service like Netflix to watch movies or Amazon Music to stream the albums of your choice, you know that you don’t own those movies — just own the account to that specific service. When you pass away, your account will get deleted. 

But when you actually buy movies, books and albums in digital format, you feel like they are yours forever. You may have thousands of dollars invested. Can you leave those to your children the same way that your parents or grandparents left collections of cassettes or discs to you? 

You do not own those assets

The truth is that you also don’t own digital media that you buy, at least not from many major sources. What you pay for is a license. It gives you the ability to watch that movie or listen to that album indefinitely. But you only own the license, not the asset, and you can’t pass the license on to anyone else.  Therefore, your collections will not be part of your estate plan. 

Understanding what you own

The first step to estate planning is understanding what you own, which is more complex today than it ever has been before. Make sure you are well aware of the legal options you have for your estate. Working closely with an experienced attorney is usually wisest — and it may help you uncover options you hadn’t considered.