We, as a society, are gradually moving away from paper bank statements, jars with money in them, and instructions to loved ones scribbled on notepads. With the growth of our online presence, our lives can be governed almost completely with our online activities, whether it be financially, socially, or professionally. It makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for our loved ones to log on to our computers, figure out our passwords, and access accounts and other websites that we may have information on.
There are a myriad of online programs our loved ones may need to access in order to know our wishes, get a complete picture of our assets, and effectively manage our estate. Our lives and digital assets are defined by flash drives, ipods, blogs, facebook accounts, twitter accounts, email accounts, Flickr, Google docs, Youtube videos, online bank accounts, online CDs, online medical information, shopping accounts that contain credit card information, subscriptions and the list goes on.
In order to plan for this, we need to consider some simple, yet rarely used, steps in order to make it easier for our loved ones.
We need to simply have a comprehensive account of our digital assets. When you die, the first thing your loved ones will have to do is identify and account for all of your assets to the court. This will be very difficult to do, unless you leave a comprehensive list, including digital assets, of where to find your assets, and how to access them, including passwords, websites, etc.
We also need to identify the appropriate person to be the executor our estates. Many estate planning attorneys will tell you to select someone responsible and financially savvy, but I would also suggest selecting someone who is electronically savvy.
We will have to provide the person or people we select to administer our affairs authority and access to these online assets. You can consider selecting a co-executor to handle only the online assets, or use the websites or online accounts themselves to set up immediate access to your executor upon your death.
In today's world, it's so important to think about our digital assets as an integral part of our estates and plan accordingly. So much of the estate planning world is still antiquated, and doesn't take into account our online presence.
Please contact your estate planning attorney to make sure that your estate planning documents are up to date and take these steps into consideration.