Estate planning for the digital age: what critical item most estate plans fail to include

I read a great article this morning about the failure of most estate plans to include information about computer account passwords and all of the transactions we do online on a daily basis (Estate planning for iTunes, passwords, and other digital assets). This is a great article because it highlights a problem in ‘modern’ estate planning.  A lawyer may be preparing your legal documents: your will and trust, and powers of attorney.  Your financial advisor is working with you to ensure that you have enough wealth to live out your life, and resources should you become disabled.  But who is assembling the information about your Amazon.com account (and perhaps an auto-ship of vitamins or other health care items)?  Who is ensuring that successor trustees or executors have access to online banking accounts to manage automatic payments. When you use a power of attorney (POA) to handle the finances of another, a copy of the POA goes into your file, but when you’re operating online, who is checking?

These are financial concerns, but there are also personal concerns here, too.  If a loved one of yours passed away suddenly, would you know everyone to contact? It’s likely that they have a contacts list on their computer or smartphone, but is the computer, smartphone, or even the contacts application locked? The same goes for email addresses and even Facebook. Your mom may have really taken to Facebook and rediscovered old friends from all aspects of her life.  When she passes, what do you do with that account?

In my estate plans, I always include a fillable book that can be used to record all of these kinds of information, and more.  I consider it to be my job to ensure that your whole estate and all of your affairs are taken care of when you’re finished with me. Sometimes I refer to other experts in other professions, and obviously I can’t force you to record your passwords and security codes anywhere, but I can let you know that this is a critical aspect of your estate plan, and encourage you to complete as much information as you can for your family, since the more you have available and accessible to your family when you pass, the easier it is for them. Who doesn’t want to do everything they can to make it easier for their family?

Did your estate planning attorney talk to you about estate planning for digital media?

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