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Are your digital assets listed in your will? *

Your iTunes collection really is a matter of life and death, according to a new report on estate planning by BMO Retirement Institute.

Digital assets, alongside caretaking provisions for parents and pets, are named among the top "new frontiers" often overlooked by Canadians when formalizing their final wishes.

The report, published Monday, cites the migration of our personal, professional and financial affairs online, the elevated place of pets in families, and longer life expectancy as reasons for the growing importance of these areas.

"Estate planning is evolving way beyond traditional things like completing your last will and testament and power of attorney," says Tina Di Vito, the head of the BMO Retirement Institute.

In a survey of 1,006 Canadians 45 and older, 36 per cent of people included at least one digital asset in their estate plan. Of those looking after an elderly parent, 34 per cent had designated arrangements for their care - only marginally higher than the 31 per cent of pet owners whose animals were accounted for in their final plans.

Di Vito says each of these is critical in its own way, though digital assets likely will affect the greatest number of Canadians going forward. These might include electronic banking information , e-commerce accounts, social-media profiles on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, loyalty programs, iTunes collections, digital photos and virtual money (think PayPal credits).

"Upon your death, the rules around this type of thing haven't really been established," Di Vito says. "It becomes more complicated for an executor to step in when they're not aware of assets like frequent-flyer miles and grocery points.

Those things have value."

When it comes to pets, kept by half of Canadians 45 plus, three-quarters of owners believe it's important to make arrangements for their care, but only one third have actually done so. Di Vito recommends not only designating a caregiver, but also including a legacy for that care .

More complex are arrangements for a parent.

Di Vito notes that even Canadians who don't act as formal caregivers, or pay for caregiving services, need to make provisions for tasks that require help - say, shovelling snow.

"Should something happen to you, who's going to step in?" Di Vito says. "If there's no mention of it in the estate, there's no legal obligation to the beneficiaries to provide that care."

Article Source: http://freelegalinformation.info

By Misty Harris, The Calgary Herald

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