Some of the most overlooked assets in estate planning include your online accounts. A recent Pew study reported that 51 percent of American adults bank online and 32 percent do so on a mobile phone. (http://tinyurl.com/mava6g3)
Our key suggestion: you should create an inventory of usernames and passwords for your online accounts. For many, this information is often memorized, not written down. However, in the event of your death, business associates or loved ones will need access to manage at least some of these accounts.
Without creating a password list and informing someone of its location, access to a deceased or incapacitated person’s digital assets is practically impossible. This list can be placed in a secure home safe, a bank safe deposit box, or even with your attorney. A provision in your estate plan documents can lead executors to the necessary information.
Types of Digital Assets to Include in Estate Plans
There are an exploding number of digital assets to consider in estate plans, including mobile devices and computers, bank accounts, utility accounts, credit cards, email accounts, insurance plans, social media, photo galleries, and blogs. In addition, you may have a subscription to Amazon Prime or Netflix with payments automatically deducted from bank or credit accounts.
Within your estate plan, you should specify a fiduciary for digital account management. This person would have access to login information and could modify, transfer, or close those accounts according to your wishes. You should also make specific instructions explaining how these accounts should be managed.
After death, private online information can become public if you do not make provisions to prevent it. You should consider adding a clause to your estate plan documents addressing this issue. If you have online accounts that you would prefer to keep hidden from loved ones, the fiduciary can be authorized to close those accounts. These may include profiles on dating and social media sites or personal blogs and photo galleries.
If you use Facebook or Instagram, you should consider adding instructions for these accounts to your estate plans. Loved ones can memorialize a deceased's profile by sending a request to Facebook, for example, or family members can request the profile be removed entirely. Since many people use these sites for storing photos, it might be important to surviving loved ones to have ongoing access to the images.
The ways in which we all use and access information online is only going to continue to increase. Estate plans should incorporate your wishes for these digital assets. Contact us if you'd like to discuss planning for this issue.
For more information, explore our website and contact us to schedule a consultation today!
Reference: The Daily Plan-It (April 2015) “Include Digital Assets in Estate Planning”