Are Digital Assets Part of My Estate Plan?
Digital Asset Planning Is Part of Good Estate Planning

Are Digital Assets Part of My Estate Plan?

It seems that every day we conduct more of our daily activities online. We increasingly all have a digital presence on our PCs and the Internet. This is what is called digital assets. To complete your estate planning, you need to consider how to deal with your digital assets. Digital asset planning is becoming an increasingly important part of good estate planning.

Without a clear plan in place, it can be a major headache for your family when you pass away, says The Street in the recent article, “Estate Planning in a Digital World.”

Estate planning for digital assets uses the same basic process as planning for physical assets, but it has some unique challenges:

  • The information in which a digital asset resides may be owned by another entity;
  • Digital assets can change; and
  • Legal issues like intellectual property and privacy laws can complicate things.

Some online services haven’t created clear policies for how digital assets are to be managed when a user has died. In some situations, it may be sufficient to make sure the person you’ve named as executor or given power of attorney has access to your passwords. However, there are some companies that may say that another person accessing an account is a violation of their terms of use. They may freeze or close the account. Therefore, you can see why careful planning and research is critical, when adding digital assets to your estate plan.

Some states have proposed standard governance guidelines for estate planning and digital assets, such as the revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. This standard guideline gives clear rules regarding how an executor can manage digital assets after the owner’s death.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to be sure your digital plan is set up correctly in your estate plan.

Do an Inventory of Your Digital Assets. Begin with a list of all of your digital assets.

Designate a Person to Handle Your Digital Assets. This person will address your online accounts and files after you pass.

Maintain a List of Your Passwords. A big help to your heirs and advisors, is to have ready access to your accounts at your death. Keep this list updated, and store it in a secure location. You should also give a copy to your estate planning attorney.

Leave Detailed Instructions. The better the instructions you leave, the easier it’ll be for your family to know what to do and to be certain that your final wishes are fulfilled.

Including information on how to access and manage your digital assets in your estate-planning documents is a critical step to ensuring that your heirs can more easily manage your affairs, when you are gone.

Learn about digital asset planning.

Reference: The Street (June 3, 2019) “Estate Planning in a Digital World”

Planning for Digital Assets as Part of Estate Planning
`Digital Asset Estate Planning

Planning for Digital Assets as Part of Estate Planning

As technology continues to advance and we are increasingly living more of our lives online, it’s time to think about what our digital legacy will be, says The Scotsman in the article The ghost in the machine—what will happen to online you after death?” This is known as digital assets planning. In our increasingly digital world, we’ve shared the news almost immediately when a celebrity dies, grieved when our online friends die and been touched by stories of people online who we have never met in RL — Real Life. Are you digital assets adequately planned for?

Most of us have digital assets and online accounts. It’s time to think about what will happen to them when we die.

Estate planning attorneys are now talking with clients about their digital assets and leaving specific instructions about what to do with these online accounts and social media, after they pass.

There’s a trend of creating video messages to loved ones and posting them online for the family to see after they pass. Facebook has a feature that allows the page owner to set a legacy contact to manage the account, after the account owner has died. Other technologies are emerging to allow you to gather your digital assets and assign an individual or individuals to manage them after you die.

It is now just as important to think about what you want to happen to your digital assets, as it is to your tangible, earth-bound assets when you die. What’s also important: considering what you want to happen to your data, how accessible and enduring you want it to be and how it will be protected.

People in their older years have seen amazing leaps and changes in technologies. We’ve moved from transistor radios to VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray. We’ve gone from land line home phones to smart phones that have the same computing power or more than a desktop. The first social media site was launched in 1997, and websites like Myspace have come and gone.

Will the current websites and software still be available and commonly used in five, ten, fifty, or one hundred years? It’s impossible to know what the world will look like then. However, unless a plan is made for digital legacies, it’s unlikely that your digital legacy will be accessible to others in the near and far future.

Here’s the problem: even if your executor does succeed in memorializing your Facebook page, will there be things on the page that you don’t want anyone to see after you’ve gone? There’s a wealth of data on social media to sift through, including items you may not want to be part of your digital legacy.

Consider the comparison to people who lived during previous ages. We may not be able to see their lives online, but they have left behind physical artifacts—letters, diaries, photographs—that we can hold in our hands and that tell us their stories. These artifacts will survive through the generations.

A digital estate plan can ensure that your data is managed by someone you trust. Talk with your estate planning attorney to learn how to put such a plan in place, when you are creating your legacy. Your last will and testament is a starting point in today’s digital world.

See how digital asset planning is a vital part of good estate planning.

Reference: The Scotsman (May 16, 2019) The ghost in the machine—what will happen to online you after death?”

Does Estate Planning Include Your Account Passwords?
Good estate planning includes account passwords

Does Estate Planning Include Your Account Passwords?

With most bank customers receiving financial statements electronically instead of on paper, there are some actions you need to take to be sure your accounts are incorporated into your estate planning. Do you use passwords for your accounts? Of course you do. Should you incorporate your passwords into your estate planning? Absolutely you should. Not only your financial accounts, but what about your social media accounts such as Facebook? Would you like a loved one to take control of your Facebook account after you die or become disabled? How do they take control? When is the last time you saw a physical copy of a photograph? Nowadays photos are stored in the cloud. How does your family access those photos? Is sharing passwords the simple answer (it is not)? Does sharing passwords violate the law (it does)? Good estate planning no longer is limited to the stuff you can touch and feel. Much of our lives are saved in the cloud. This is what we call digital asset estate planning.

Kiplinger’s recent story, Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem,” says that having online access to investments is a great convenience for us. We can monitor bank balances, conduct stock trades, transfer funds and many other services that not long ago required the help of another person.

The bad thing about these advancements, is that they can make for a very difficult situation for a surviving spouse or executor attempting to determine where the assets of a deceased person are held.

This was in the news recently, when the founder and CEO of a cryptocurrency exchange died unexpectedly. Gerry Cotten didn’t share the password to the exchange’s cold storage locker—leaving $190 million in cryptocurrency belonging to his clients totally inaccessible. Investors may never see their funds again.

You can see how important it is to provide a way for someone to access your data, if you become incapacitated or die.

The easiest, but least secure answer is to just give your passwords to a trusted family member. They’ll need passwords to access your accounts. They’ll also need a password to access your email, where electronic financial statements are sent. Another simple option is to write down and place all passwords in a safe deposit box.

Your executor or guardian/attorney-in-fact through a power of attorney (in the case of incapacitation) can access the box and your passwords to access your computer, email and financial platforms.

This is a bit safer than simply writing down and providing passwords to a trusted friend or spouse. However, it requires diligence to keep the password list updated.

Finally, the most secure way to safely and securely store passwords is with a digital wallet. A digital wallet keeps track of all your passwords across all your devices and does so in an encrypted file in the cloud.

There’s only one obstacle for an executor or surviving spouse to overcome—the password for your digital wallet.

See how you can incorporate your passwords and other digital assets in your estate planning.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 19, 2019) “Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem”