This blog is part of a series addressing estate planning for digital assets. For digital assets, we are including items such as bank accounts, investment accounts, access to mortgage information, Facebook contact lists, emails, credit cards, etc.
The online world continues to evolve rapidly, and our lives have become a maze of unique user IDs and password-protected websites for items that will be ultra-important to understanding and administering our assets when we are no longer here.
Here are four important reasons to plan now for your digital assets:
- Make things easier on your executor(s) and family members. Each online account is likely to have a username, password, and security questions and answers. In addition, many individuals no longer receive paper statements or bills. Without instructions, locating, collecting, and monitoring these assets will be very burdensome on fiduciaries and family members.
- Prevent ID Theft and/or Financial Losses to the Estate. In addition to needing access to online accounts for personal reasons and closing probate, family members need this information quickly to ensure a deceased’s identity is not stolen. Also, electronic bills for utilities, loans, insurance, and other expenses need to be discovered quickly and paid to prevent cancellations.
- Avoid Losing Your Personal Story. Many digital assets are valuable to family members who extract meaning from what you leave behind. Pictures, letters, and journals are now stored on computers or online rather than printed. Without alerting family members that these assets exist, and without telling them how to access them, important aspects of your life story may be lost forever.
- Prevent Unwanted Secrets from Being Discovered. Sometimes people do not want their loved ones discovering private emails, documents, or other electronic material. They may contain hurtful secrets, non-politically correct jokes and stories, or personal rantings. Without designating appropriate people to take care of electronically stored materials, the wrong person may come across this type of information and use it in an inappropriate or embarrassing manner.
The legal rights of executors and beneficiaries with respect to digital assets are still unclear but continue to evolve. The more you plan in advance for digital assets, the better chance they will be handled the way you want them handled.
Fournier Legal Services was founded on a technology-based model and is uniquely positioned to assist you with issues related to digital assets.
For assistance with any legal needs related to your business or estate planning, contact Fournier Legal Services for a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.670.3535.
Joseph E. Fournier is an Attorney and a CPA who has more than twenty years of experience in a variety of business legal matters, including start-ups and company formations, drafting shareholder and operating agreements, contracts, employment law, commercial litigation, tax planning and audit defense, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He also handles estate planning matters, such as business succession planning, wills, trusts, and probate.