Are You Protecting Your Digital Assets?

As communications technology has advanced, many things that were once slow, cumbersome, and space consuming, are now quick, easy, and take virtually no space at all.  The sticky cellophane-covered pages of a photo album have been replaced by a folder of jpeg files or Facebook.  Letters that once were carefully stacked and saved in a box on a closet shelf or cedar chest are now saved as emails.  File cabinets full of business documents   may now exist only in a Dropbox.  Account statements which may have once come in the mail now are only in electronic form.  Many assets, both traditional and sentimental, have gone from tangible form to digital form.  In many cases, the files are no longer on your personal PC, but locked in a user account in the “cloud”. Unfortunately, traditional estate planning doesn’t handle these assets very well.

It is smart to take proactive steps to ensure your loved ones can access these assets without hassle. The following actions are a good idea:

  1. Create      an inventory. Unlike the shoebox full of photos or the file box full      of important papers, your loved ones may not know whether these assets      even exist if you don’t keep an inventory. In the most extreme example, if      your spouse or children don’t have access to your email,  and you get your statements paperlessly,      will they even know about the brokerage that holds your retirement assets or      the bank accounts that you hold your cash balances in? Maybe not. Whether      sentimental or financial, keep a list of all of these assets and make sure      your loved ones can access that list.
  2. Keep      a password list.  When someone      you care about dies, there is enough to deal with without having to chase      down passwords, and deal with “help” desks and customer service reps who      aren’t authorized to be helpful.  Make      a list of your passwords and keep it in a safe place and let someone you      trust know where that list is.       Besides helping your loved ones deal with bigger issues after you      are gone, you may be glad you have the list yourself if you are like me      and forget a password from time to time in an account you don’t use      regularly.
  3. Give      someone you trust authority to access the assets.  Have language in your will      specifically authorizing your executor to access your digital assets when      you’re gone. [Alternatively, you can appoint someone other than your      executor to have this access.] Make sure your power of attorney document      specifically authorizes access to digital assets so that your agent can      access them if you’re alive and incapacitated.

If you need help on any of these items, feel free to contact me.

 

TAX ADVICE DISCLAIMER: Any tax advice contained in this communication (including attachments) isnot intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used, by you for the purpose of (1) avoiding any penalty that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Service or (2) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

THE CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Everything posted here is for educational or entertainment purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not take any action, postpone any action, or decline to take any proposed action based on this information without first engaging the representation of me or another qualified attorney. Nothing posted on Facebook, Twitter or on any website is to  be construed in any way as legal advice.

DISCLAIMER: I am an attorney.  I am not your attorney, and therefore no communications between us are covered by attorney-client privilege unless you possess a signed document which states that I currently represent you as an attorney. In the case that such a document exists, the existence or waiver of attorney-client privilege shall be controlled by the signed fee agreement or engagement letter.

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