Wills & Estates: Federal, Provincial and Territorial

When people plan their will and the management of their estate, they typically think about their children, their home, jewelry and other personal possessions. What they often overlook are their digital assets. A digital asset is any kind of record you own in digital form. This includes photos, Word and Excel documents, emails and text messages. It also includes social media posts, your Facebook page, or other files that can be created, shared and stored on a device or online. Digital assets even extend to digital currency such as Bitcoin and loyalty programs such as Air Miles or cash-back credit card accounts.

A report by Deloitte estimates that this year the average Canadian will have accumulated over $10,000 in digital assets. Yet, BMO Wealth Institute reports that over 57% of Canadians have failed to make arrangements for their digital assets in their estate plans. See https://www.wealthprofessional.ca/news/industry-news/keep-an-estate-planning-eye-on-digital-assets/254544

Don’t create headaches for your executor

Your digital assets have value — whether they are of a financial or sentimental nature — and should form an essential part of your will and estate planning. Failure to do so could present a challenge for your executor. A classic example is having online accounts which may contain personal data, such as your social insurance number and address. If there is no record of those accounts, it’s like having a storage box with your valuables in it, but telling no one about it or where to find it. Not only can this create headaches for your executor, it can result in significant loss to the value of your estate. If you don’t provide explicit instruction in your will regarding management of your Facebook page, emails or blogs, grieving family members may be facing a legal battle against big businesses for access to them.

You could name a digital executor in your will

Ideally, in your will, you list the people to whom your digital assets should be distributed and instructions about which accounts to delete or deactivate. You could name a digital executor in your will, separate from your regular executor, to deal with your digital estate. The inclusion of a digital assets clause would give the appointed executor authority to deal with your assets. At Howard Nightingale Professional Corporation, we have the expertise to guide you through the steps needed to include digital assets as part of your estate planning process; and help you select an executor who would be the best choice for dealing with those assets. You can reach our Toronto office at 416-663-4423 or toll free at 1-877- 224-8225.

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