Are your digital assets included in your estate plan? If not, you most likely need a fresh look.
The world is changing rapidly, thanks to fast-moving advances in technology, including the creation of digital assets. That means your estate plan may well need an update, according to Financial Advisor in “Unlocking Clients’ Digital Lives.”
As it turns out, if no one can access your digital assets, including accounts, many could be lost, stolen by a hacker or deleted.
Forty-one states (but not Massachusetts) and the U.S. Virgin Islands have passed laws that allow a financial planner or other fiduciary to access digital assets upon the death of a client, and four other states (but not Massachusetts) plus the District of Columbia are considering similar legislation.
In Missouri, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act allows a fiduciary to be granted access to a person’s electronic records or digital assets in a will, trust, power of attorney or another document.
The way we live our personal lives and the way we conduct our personal business and financial matters have changed, so we must address digital assets in our estate planning to reflect these changes.
Challenges are created if those digital assets are not addressed in the estate plan. Striking a balance between privacy rights and the need to settle an estate, can become an expensive and time-consuming issue. One family had to bring a lawsuit to access the emails of their son, a Marine who was killed while serving our country.
If you manage your bill paying and investments online, someone will need to be able to control bill payments, especially if they are on an autopayment schedule.
Start by preparing a complete inventory of all digital assets, including a description of each one and how it is accessed with names, passwords and security questions. Find out what each online platform requires, if a fiduciary or executor needs to access those accounts. Each platform, like each financial institution, has their own forms and procedures.
This information should be stored in a secure place. Some people prefer a password-protected digital location.
An estate planning attorney can help you create or update your estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include your digital assets.
Reference: Financial Advisor (Aug. 21, 2018) “Unlocking Clients’ Digital Lives”