A common oversight in estate planning has become planning for the administration of digital assets.
Digital Assets are any files stored on digital devices, desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, cloud technology, etc. It also includes email accounts, online banking accounts, social media accounts, owned web domain names, and other programs and software depending on the individual client.
Without planning for these assets, the entire worth of online files and accounts can become inaccessible to the executor, personal representative, trustee or other fiduciary. This creates an incredible amount of added stress on family members and loved ones who are already dealing with a difficult situation after someone’s passing or incapacity.
While Florida may become one of the first states to adopt legislation to allow fiduciaries access to these assets, there are certain steps clients can take to facilitate the process for their fiduciaries.
Make a list or inventory of all accounts and digital assets. Include in this list all your online accounts for online banking, social media, credit cards, bills, utilities, mortgages, paypal, and any other websites in which you have a username and login. Keep the list in a safe or safe deposit box.
Choose a fiduciary. Choose someone, preferably a family member, like a spouse or child, to keep a copy of the list in a safe location. If a client is not comfortable leaving such a list with a family member, ask your attorney to keep a copy in your file. It is protected by the attorney- client privileged communication rule. If your list is in a safe or safe deposit box, inform the fiduciary of the location.
Include digital asset language in estate planning documentation. Estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, and durable powers of attorney are customizable to the individual client’s needs. Consult with your attorney about including relevant language in these documents to give your fiduciary access.
As technology progresses rapidly and our lives move more and more into digital and electronic services, client’s digital estates will continue to grow. Taking the time to create a digital estate plan or update your current estate plan now will help make things easier on your heirs and increase the chances your wishes are followed.