Estate Planning in a Digital World

There’s no denying that technology has changed the way we live. Most of us have a social media presence (or three), do our banking and bill payments electronically, store important documents in the Cloud and even grow our wealth by managing our investments over the Internet. Many people even use digital currency like Bitcoin and Paypal balances.

As we accumulate digital assets, it becomes increasingly important that they factor them into estate planning along with traditional property like the house, car, and art collection. This advice isn’t only directed at the younger generation: thanks to the convenience and easy accessibility of the Internet, retirees and even the elderly have active online presences that should be handled appropriately when they pass away.

Think about it. When you die, what will happen to all those pictures and documents you’ve been keeping on Google Drive? How about your Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter account? How will anyone else access your bank and retirement accounts if they don’t have your passwords? What will happen to the balances in your Ebay and Bitcoin accounts?

Don’t assume that service providers will automatically release all of your login details to your beneficiaries. Thanks to federal laws that restrict disclosure of confidential information, they likely won’t. Instead, you should formulate a plan for the transfer of all digital and electronically stored assets after you die.

Creating a Digital Estate Plan

Start by creating an inventory of all your electronic and digital assets. This list should include:

  • Email and social media user IDs and passwords
  • Login details for your online banking and investment accounts
  • Digital music and movie files
  • Documents
  • Photos

After everything has been itemized, a new or updated estate plan should include instructions for disposing of the assets. If you want your personal blog shut down or left up as a memorial, state that fact. If you want your children to have all the songs and movies in your iTunes account or your ownership in a business domain name to pass on to your longtime partner, say so. Then sit down with your estate planner and start drafting.

Several states have already passed laws that address access to and disposition of a person’s digital property after they die. On July 1, 2016, the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act came into effect to enable beneficiaries and personal representatives to access digital assets after their owner passes away.

The Act has two purposes:

  • It grants your designated representatives the authority to manage digital assets and accounts as well as traditional ones.
  • It gives service providers the authority to interact with an account holder’s fiduciaries without violating the user’s privacy expectations.

By vesting your representatives with the authority to access, copy, or control your digital accounts and assets, you make it possible for your virtual estate to be distributed with the same ease and precision as your traditional one. For assistance in creating an estate plan that takes your electronic holdings into account, call Legacy Planning Law Group today.

Written by Legacy Planning Law Group

Legacy Planning Law Group is dedicated to working with individuals and families to help protect the assets they have built throughout their life, and make everything simpler for families who have lost a loved one. We help thoughtful people achieve the peace of mind that comes with planning their personal legacy and passing on family harmony.