Estate planning is no longer about just death, death taxes, and beneficiary naming, we remind clients at Geyer Law. Technology, we point out, has everything to do with complicating our affairs. As Professor Gerry Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law so aptly remarked, “It’s not a good idea to pass on leaving your passwords behind”.

Why, exactly, is it so important to include “digital assets” in estate planning?

  • Our social media accounts often contain personal messages, photos, videos, and other information of a private nature.
  • Social media websites have strict privacy policies that bar even family members from gaining access to the accounts, and email services have strict user agreements.
  • With so much banking and bill paying happening online, it’s difficult for executors to determine the extent of a person’s assets after he or she dies.

Digital assets include:

  • Email accounts
  • Picture and video storage sites
  • Social networking sites
  • Domain names
  • Games
  • Personal or work computers and their hardware and software
  • Tablets, flash drives, CDs and DVDs

As part of their estate planning, clients need to develop an inventory, including, for each:

  • username
  • password
  • answer to “secret” questions

The estate plan must clarify which of these accounts should be deleted, and which ones passed on to family members. Who should take care of such business? This information can be printed or stored on a computer, USB flash drive, or in the cloud with remote access.

At Geyer Law, we discuss with our clients some very practical and everyday considerations when it comes to their online transactions and records even during life. What do you want to happen in the event you become temporarily incapacitated and can’t monitor your on-line accounts, we ask?

Without careful planning, some very bad things can happen, we explain:

  • identity theft might go undetected
  • bills might go unpaid, negatively affecting your credit score.

Both the laws in our state and user agreements with providers are evolving to deal with these issues. Truth is, not all systems are fully caught up with the new technology-based realities. Meanwhile, at Geyer Law, we want to do everything possible to help our clients be as prepared as possible in protecting their assets – including digital assets!

– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team