What is digital property?
For the purposes of digital estate planning, digital property can be broken down into three main categories:
- Personal digital property
- Personal digital property with monetary value
- Digital business property
Personal digital property
Personal digital property includes:
- Computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices
- Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device
- Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage
- Domain names
- Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own
Personal digital property with monetary value may include:
- Computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices of monetary value
- Websites or blogs that generate revenue for you
- Art, photos, music, eBooks, intellectual property, or other digital property that generates revenue for you
- Accounts that are used to manage money and may hold money or credits, like PayPal, bank accounts, loyalty rewards programs, and any accounts with credit balances in your favor
- Domain names
Digital business property
Digital business property may includes:
- Any digital property owned by a business organization
- Any online accounts registered to the business
- Any assets of an online store you manage, such as your own online store or an eBay, Etsy, or Amazon store through which you sell things
- Any mailing lists, newsletter subscription lists, or email lists containing your company's clients
- Any client information, including customer history
Hardware and their contents
There are many different kinds of hardware that qualify as digital property, primarily because they contain digital information about you or that you created. Also, the hardware itself, even without the data it contains, may have monetary value.
- Computers, including the hard drive and its contents
- Tablet and its contents
- Smartphone and mobile phones, including call history, text history, photos, location data, and other contents
- Digital music player, including any music, playlists, or data on the device
- Digital cameras, including any photos or videos on the device
- E-reader, including any books or files on the device
- External hard drives and flash drives, and any content on the device
Electronically stored information and data
Any information that you store electronically—from photos and videos, to text messages and emails, to medical records and legal documents—is your digital property. This can include information and data that you store on a physical device (such as a computer, a flash drive, or a phone) or that you store electronically (in the cloud).
Any online accounts you have will necessarily contain lots of personal information about you. In addition, the information necessary to access those accounts is considered your digital property.
- Email, including any correspondences and in-email chats
- Other online communication tools, such as Skype, FaceTime, and IM or iChat or WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, and any data or conversations stored on those programs
- Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others, and any content (writing, photos, and videos, for example) that you've posted to those sites, and any correspondences you've had through those sites
- Shopping accounts, including any personal information you've stored in your account (your credit card information, your address, etc.), your purchase history, and any credit you may have with the company
- Photo and video sharing accounts, such as Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, Instagram, and YouTube, including the photos and video content, any personal data in the account settings, and any interactions you had through the accounts (commenting, liking, etc.)
- Video gaming accounts, and any in-game or in-app purchases, account information, avatars and game history, and any in-game assets you've acquired
- Online storage accounts, including the data and information stored
- Websites and blogs, including any writing or content you've created for the site or blog, any history of interactions with the site's readers or users, and any income you may have generated from the site
- Loyalty programs (credit card, airline, car rental, hotel, etc.) and any benefits that may have accrued over time
Many people own domain names, whether as an investment strategy or for sites that are live. In any case, if you own any domain names those count as your digital property, and will likely have some monetary value.
Any digital intellectual property that you've protected counts as your digital property, whether there are physical elements to the property or not. In addition, many types of digital intellectual property may have some monetary value.
- Copyrighted digital materials
- Registered trademarks
If you're interested in creating a digital estate plan, see our article How to Create a Digital Estate Plan.