Wills, trusts and powers of attorney are all essential parts of an estate plan. Yet, given the rapid growth of technology and the extent of the average American’s presence online, it is imperative that individuals create an estate plan for their digital assets.
Technology continues to change the way we live. From online banking to keeping in touch through social media, a significant portion of our affairs are handled digitally. Without a digital estate plan, your family may have a difficult time accessing your online accounts in the event of your death. Thus, it is important to create plan which designates a representative to be responsible for your digital presence.
Begin the digital estate planning process by creating a list of every digital account that you possess and a secure record of the account name, username and password for each. In doing so, you will be creating a directory that will allow your designated representative to find and access all of your accounts without complication. This may seem like rudimentary advice, but many families face significant hurdles when trying to access the online accounts of a deceased loved one. Be sure to update these records each time a new account is created.
When taking inventory of your digital accounts, ensure that you have included the following:
- Social media accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+
- Online banking accounts: Loan payment accounts, banking and investment accounts
- Online file storage: Dropbox, Google Drive and file databases
- Email accounts: Work email address, personal email address
- Utilities accounts: Online bill payment accounts for water, gas and power
- Retail accounts: Shopping accounts, subscription services
Once you have created and begun to maintain a record of digital accounts, ensure that the representative you have designated to handle your digital assets knows how to locate this document after your death. Whether it is stored in a locked file cabinet or with your estate planning attorney, provide your representative with detailed instructions on how to find it.
You will also need to provide your digital estate representative with directions on how to handle all of your digital accounts, files and equipment. Provide directives such as which accounts can be deactivated, which files can be deleted and how to proceed with particularly sensitive data or important information.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to prepare your digital estate plan. Navigating the legal details of estate planning can be tedious and difficult, made even more so when digital assets are involved. Contact the attorneys at Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger for more information on digital estate planning.