Unclaimed Property: Virtual Asset Instruction Letters
- Older Americans are increasingly active on the Internet - investing, banking and connecting with others online. These advances bring new challenges. If a person passes away without leaving instructions on how to access his or her online accounts, it can complicate things for family members or heirs.
- A virtual asset is any information you store online and any device you use to access that information.
Virtual assets include:
- Mobile phones
- Desktop, laptop and tablet computers
- Websites and blogs
- Email accounts (Gmail, AOL, Yahoo)
- Online photo storage accounts
- Social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn)
- Online banking and financial accounts
- Online shopping accounts (eBay, Amazon, etc.)
- Your virtual assets have value, so it is important to consider them in your estate planning. What do you want to happen to your email account? Do you want to leave your online photographs to your family members? These are questions to discuss with your lawyer or financial planner.
- A virtual asset instruction letter (VAIL) is a useful tool to protect your virtual assets. It allows someone else (your spouse, lawyer or designated representative) to access your virtual assets should you become incapacitated or pass away.
- Your VAIL should list all of your virtual assets, including website addresses, usernames and passwords.
- Keep your VAIL secure by saving it to a CD or memory stick. Store it in a safe place and give your spouse, lawyer or designated representative instructions on how to access it.
- It is crucial to keep your VAIL up to date. Regularly update it with your current electronic devices, websites, account names, user names and passwords.
This page is intended as a starting point only. It does not constitute legal advice. Consult with your attorney or financial planner about how to protect and plan for your virtual assets.
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