As the modern world continues to evolve into an increasingly digital age, estate planning professionals report that digital and virtual assets are becoming important considerations. The world is becoming more and more digital, with books, music and even photographs maintaining a strong online presence. Few people maintain hard copies of those items, which can make estate administration difficult for those who do not include their virtual assets in their plans.

Digital assets mean different things to different people, but the most commonly recognized assets include files that are stored on digital devices, along with e-mail communication and accounts. Digital music, photographs, books and other information may also be considered under the digital asset umbrella, with some people even including hardware such as mobile telephones and computers themselves.

Experts say that failure to plan for your digital assets could have a wide range of consequences. Imagine your estate executor remaining unaware of your rainy-day savings account because the password is missing. Even worse, your sentimental family photographs could be locked away in a Shutterfly account that your family cannot access.

Estate planners say the most important step in planning for your digital assets is to make a list. Create a spreadsheet that documents important passwords and accounts, including descriptions and locations of assets along with account numbers and other vital information. Update the master list any time you make a change to your financial or other digital assets, and keep the file in an obvious location for your family members. Tell your executor where you plan to put this master list.

Keep in mind that digital assets are not always transferrable. For example, airlines may not permit the transfer of frequent flyer miles. Find out whether your assets can be transferred, and add that information to the master list.

By maintaining an organized catalog of your digital assets, you can be sure that your family members and beneficiaries can access the information and items that you intend to distribute.

Luis E. Barreto