What Are "Digital Assets"?

What digital assets are, and why you need to make a plan for them.

By , Attorney
Updated by Jennie Lin, Attorney (Harvard Law School)

These days, we're all steeped in the burdens and rewards of digital life, yet most of us haven't really thought through what will happen to all of those accounts, profiles, and files when we die. Read on to jog your memory on the many types of digital assets you own, and ask yourself whether you have a plan in place for what happens to them at your death.

What Exactly Does "Digital Assets" Include?

Technically speaking, digital assets are any "electronic record" that you own, license, or control. This includes just about any online account or digital file that you have authority to access—email, online banking account, social media accounts, cloud storage, digital photos, and just about anything else that you access online, on your phone, or on your computer that requires a login.

"Digital assets" do not include underlying assets unless the underlying asset is itself an electronic record. So, for example, your online banking account is a digital asset, but not the money in your bank account. On the other hand, both your cloud storage account and the digital files you stored in that account are digital assets.

What Digital Assets Do You Have?

To get you thinking about what kinds of digital assets you'll need to plan for, below is a non-exhaustive list of assets that you might have.

Scan through this list and ask yourself: "Which of these types of digital assets do I have?" After you make an inventory, you'll want to ask:

  • Who needs access to this digital asset after I die? (Does anyone need to access information stored in this account? Will giving someone access make the process of wrapping up my estate easier? Does anyone need to access the account to transfer funds or files? Do you want someone to close the account when you die, or post any last messages?)
  • Is this digital asset worth anything?
  • If so, who do I want to inherit this digital asset?

Email Accounts

  • Gmail
  • Yahoo
  • Outlook

Social Media Accounts

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest

Digital Files and Software

Digital files might include documents, photos, music, playlists, videos, e-books, and contact lists, while software might include financial, legal, and tax software. Consider where you might have digital files or software stored. For example:

  • On your phone
  • On your iPad, other tablet, or e-reader
  • On your computer
  • On a hard drive or flash drive
  • In the cloud (for example, on Dropbox, Google Photos, Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud)
  • Digital music, e-books, and other files stored in accounts such as iTunes, Google Play, and Audible

    Financial Accounts

    • Savings accounts
    • Checking accounts
    • Loans
    • Bill payment accounts
    • Mortgages
    • Credit cards
    • 401ks, IRAs, and other retirement accounts
    • E-trading and brokerage accounts
    • Credit monitoring and budgeting services
    • Cryptocurrency platforms such as Coinbase and crypto assets such as Bitcoin

    Online Accounts for Utilities

    • Cell phone
    • Gas and electric
    • Internet service
    • Water and sewer
    • Trash and recycling
    • Alarm companies

    Medical Accounts

    • Doctor's portals and electronic medical records
    • Pharmacy accounts

    Online Subscription Service Accounts

    • Spotify, Pandora, and other music subscriptions
    • Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and other video subscriptions
    • News and other media subscriptions

    Other Digital Assets

    • Gaming accounts
    • Online dating accounts
    • Insurance accounts (such as for car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, health insurance)
    • Blog-building sites, registered domain names, hosting services
    • Loyalty program benefits (such as cash-back credit card programs, frequent flyer miles, and hotel points)

    How Can You Plan Ahead for Your Digital Assets?

    Visit Nolo's series on Digital Assets to learn about what happens to your digital assets when you die, as well as how you can plan ahead to ensure that the people you want to have access to your digital assets will have it. In this series of articles, we discuss which digital assets can pass through your will or trust, and which cannot. We also discuss why it's a good idea to give your executor or trustee access to your digital assets. And we help you set up a plan for all of your digital assets.

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