Why You Need To Have a Digital Estate Plan

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The world is changing rapidly, and all of our critical information is now captured digitally.  We need to have a Digital Estate Plan so our loved ones can access our digital information in the event we become incapacitated or die. We all know that we need an updated Last Will and Testament, but we also need to have a separate document to be stored with our Will that addresses all of the online accounts we have, including our social media accounts and passwords and information about how to access critical information stored on our computer(s) and in the apps on our cell phones.  We also need to appoint a Digital Estate Executor and include that person in our Will along with a Power of Attorney so that he or she can have access to our digital accounts. As a service to all of my clients, I have devised a spreadsheet tool that you can easily use to store your online account information that you should store securely with your Will. Update the spreadsheet at the end of each quarter and pair it with another regular activity like paying your quarterly taxes. That way, you won’t forget to do it. Please remember that I am not an attorney, so none of the information contained in this posting should be construed as legal advice.  I am not qualified to give you specific advice about the planning of your non-digital estate or digital estate. It is advisable and would be prudent for you to review your digital estate plan with your executor, accountant, lawyer, estate planner or other professionals involved in the disposition of your estate.  An important factor to remember is that since your Will is a matter of public record, you should not include account numbers, user names and passwords in your actual Will. Your Digital Estate spreadsheet should be securely co-located with your Will and you need to tell your Executor, Digital Estate Executor and attorney how to find it.

Why is it important to have a Digital Estate Plan and a Digital Estate Executor and what critical information can remain hidden from your heirs?

  • Cash balances in PayPal Accounts, Checking, Savings and Investment Accounts
  • Cash balances in College Savings Plans
  • Cash balances in Web-Only bank accounts like Emigrant Direct
  • Cash balances and awards in Rewards accounts and in Consignment accounts
  • Bitcoins (Digital Money)
  • Digital Wallets, like Starbucks
  • Utilities automatically paid online
  • Netflix and other online subscriptions
  • Royalties from eBooks
  • Domain names, some of which can be very valuable
  • Sellers’ accounts on eBay or other websites
  • Social Media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Dating web sites
  • Blogs
  • Online Geneology accounts
  • Photo, video, music, eBook and movie collections
  • Digital video game currency like digital swords
  • Information on internal and external computer hard drives, tablets, flash drives, the Cloud or SM cards

Here’s a simple organizing formula for gathering and recording all your digital information:

  1. Email us for your complementary Digital Estate Planning Tool Spreadsheet.
  2. Decide who will be your Digital Estate Executor if different from your existing Executor and get permission from this person.  Follow up with your attorney.
  3. Gather together your online accounts, including account numbers, website addresses, usernames, passwords, security numbers and security questions and answers and any helpful notes.
  4. Fill in your spreadsheet, password-protect it, store it on a flash drive and print out a copy.
  5. Place the paper copy in a secure place with your Will and tell your attorney, Executor and Digital Estate Executor how to find it.

As always, if you need help call us and we’ll schedule a convenient time to work with you.

For more information related to this topic please go to:www.lifehacker.com, estateplanning.com and forbes.com. Then use the search words: Digital Estate Plan.