Including your “digital assets” in estate planning is vital in today’s social media age. Have you ever thought about what happens to your Facebook profile if something happens to you? Estate planning attorneys are now including instructions for Facebook and Twitter (and other digital identities) in estate plans.
But beyond Facebook and other online profiles, it is important to include digital assets in your estate plans to prevent identity thieves from using your personal information after your death. Unfortunately, Arizona is one of the leading states for identity theft.
Suggestions from Nagle Law Group’s estate planning attorneys include:
Designate the person responsible for managing your digital identity in your Will and let them know what your wishes are if something happens to you. This person may or may not be the personal representative designated in the Will. If it is not, the Will should specifically provide that another person has such authority and you might consider granting a limited power of attorney. In any event, the Will should address these types of items because the law has not caught up with technology in terms of predetermined rules. Digital information is not clear in terms of what type of asset (financial, intangible, etc.) or if it even is an asset that would be recognized under the laws of intestacy. Therefore, without addressing these issues in the Will and possibly with an additional written set of directions outside of the Will, these accounts may languish and a personal representative may struggle getting cooperation from the company maintaining the account.
Make some kind of file, whether it’s on a Flash drive, or in an actual physical notebook, with logins / passwords, accounts, etc. Keep it updated and stored securely, and make sure somebody (spouse/partner, loved one, sibling, etc.) knows where you keep it. There are some password storage applications you can use to keep all passwords in one secure place; this is also important so that people don’t steal your identity after your death. A person may want to differentiate between different types of accounts and who is responsible. For example, you may designate one person with authority to contact Facebook, to view personal email to notify friends and colleagues of your passing, and still have yet another person acting as the personal representative administering online financial accounts. Note that it is critically important to provide a list of all accounts (such as a Scottrade or TD Ameritrade account) to the personal representative since a person may own stocks or other financial assets and all communications are online (such as monthly statements); without a list and/or email access, the personal representative might never know about them.
Make sure to include your email password(s) in your file so that your designated person can access your email and turn off accounts. Regularly “clean out” your email rather than storing unimportant messages indefinitely; there is no need to keep 10 years worth of email messages. Create folders for email messages that are important and organize your email account with those.
Planning for the future of your loved ones has become especially important given our current economic climate. Establishing a clear plan for the distribution of your assets (including your digital assets, like Facebook) and planning for your care in the event that you become incapacitated, protects your property, your health and your family members. Our estate planning attorneys work closely with clients to identify goals, plan for contingencies and create a comprehensive Arizona estate plan that makes sure that your wishes are carried out. In addition, as a full service estate planning law firm based in Phoenix, our probate law attorneys offer comprehensive probate and estate administration services. Whatever your needs, we have the experience and tools to provide for an easy transition to your heirs.