Protecting online information an integral part of any estate plan
When it comes to creating a will, most people end up focusing on their bank accounts and tangible assets. They decide how to distribute their money, what to do with their home and who should get certain meaningful items of personal property.
However, in this modern age, this is no longer enough. So many important things exist on the computer and online, and it is therefore extremely important to consider these digital assets when creating an estate plan.
Online financial information
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when making a digital estate plan is access to online banking and investment accounts. If you are not receiving paper statements, your loved ones may have no way to access – or even know about – your accounts once you pass away.
Many people assume that their executors will be able to find everything they need so long as they can access the computer. However, this is rarely the case. It is important for every person to make a list of all of their online accounts and the login information required to access them. This list should be updated whenever an account is created or closed, or whenever a password is changed.
There are a number of options for ensuring that this information gets passed on. Some people may feel comfortable sharing their list with the person they have designated as their executor. Others who desire more privacy may prefer to store the information in a safe deposit box or to provide a copy to the attorney who maintains their estate plan.
Other digital assets
Financial accounts aren’t the only assets to consider, though. Email accounts may contain correspondence that will be meaningful to a person’s survivors. (Or, conversely, messages that a person would really prefer to keep secret!) Social networking accounts like Facebook or Instagram likely contain stores of pictures that loved ones would like to download and keep. It is important to decide who will have access to these accounts and to give direction on what should be done with them.
The estate planning process is even more complicated for photographers, graphic designers, writers, entrepreneurs or anyone else who stores their work product or business information in digital form. These assets may have significant financial worth in addition to whatever sentimental value they hold. Failing to give direction as to how these assets should be handled may cause a person’s loved ones to wind up fighting or involved in litigation.
Working with an attorney
These are only a few of the many issues involved in protecting digital assets. If you have not yet made arrangements to protect your online accounts and personal information, it is advisable to make an appointment to discuss the issue with an experienced estate planning attorney.