This blog is Part 2 in a series of articles addressing estate planning for digital assets. See here to view the other blogs in our series.
The online world continues to evolve rapidly, and for many of us, our lives are ruled by the internet, the cloud, email, and digital assets. Our lives are a maze of “unique user IDs” and password-protected websites for our bank accounts and other important personal and professional items.
Here are four important reasons to plan now for fiduciary access to your assets:
- To 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 from a client, locating, collecting, and monitoring these assets will be very burdensome on fiduciaries and family members.
- To 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.
- To Avoid Losing the Decedent’s Personal Story. Many digital assets are not inherently valuable, but may be valuable to family members who extract meaning from what the deceased leaves 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 get access to them, the story of the life of the deceased may be lost forever.
- To 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.
Despite legislation addressing fiduciaries’ ability to access and manage digital assets, the rights of executors and beneficiaries with respect to digital assets are still unclear. The more a client plans in advance for digital assets, the better chance his or her fiduciaries will be able to efficiently access and administer such assets.
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 free 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.