Computers, the internet, and smartphones have become critical tools for all of us.A Pew Research foundation study showed that 25% of all U.S. adults are constantly online and 77% are online daily. The internet has become a basic tool for us and because of that, more and more of our personal and financial information is stored online. Those items we have stored online are referred to as digital assets.These include email accounts, online banking and brokerage accounts, frequent flier or cash back credit card accounts, Facebook and other social media accounts, even photos.It is important to include these assets, along with all your others, in your estate planning documents. If you are no longer here, what should be done with these assets? And, maybe they need to be accessed in order for your estate to be settled.
Due to federal privacy laws, most internet companies won't assure access to data unless arrangements have been made in advance. RUFADAA (Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act) is a statute that most states have adopted addressing this issue. Under this statute, the owner of digital property can give express authorization to family members or fiduciaries for access and the ability to manage digital assets.
First, decide who you want to manage your assets upon your disability or passing - it could be one or several people.Next, organize your digital assets.Consider investing in a reliable password manager such as LastPass or Sticky Password.Make a list of your digital assets, being sure to include user IDs and internet domain names that can possibly be sold or blogs which are intellectual property.Don't forget to also include access information for your mobile devices and computers.This list should be securely stored and updated frequently.
Next on your to-do list should be to consult an estate attorney about adding language to your will for the handling of these digital assets upon your death. Additionally, the attorney can help create a power of attorney giving your executor or agent authority to access and act upon your digital assets. Do not include access data to your online accounts, such as usernames or passwords in your will. Your will becomes a public document upon your death and therefore this access information would no longer be secure.Be sure to review the policies of your online service providers surrounding death or disability.The instructions you include in your will should match the information you have provided to the online service provider or they might not accept the terms in your estate planning documents.
Proactive planning will help to preserve the legacy you have created in digital form.