Estate Planning for Your Digital Footprint

Estate planning attorneys are encouraging people to address digital property

The death of old-school estate planning began with the advent of the internet. When people pass on today, they leave behind a digital landscape of property that is difficulty to deal with. It used to be your executor, attorney or trustee would compile all of your records like bank statements, documents, contracts an unpaid bills to settle estates. Every piece of paper that pertains to your property and wishes could be collected in a big box for sorting. Now they need to be concerned about things that don’t have a physical presence, for this new out-of-the box world.

Estate planning attorneys, at least the more astute ones, are encouraging people to include digital property plans for legal incapacitation or death. There are a few different categories of digital property and they include: social media like Facebook, Linkedin, Tumblr and Twitter. Then you may use storage services to store medical records, backup or save computer files  like Dropbox, maybe you like to use and store photographs on websites like Flickr. Yours could even include financial management sites like eFinPLAN, Quicken or Mint, online investing like Wealthfront, or maybe you only receive bills electronically.

Estate planners always recommend their clients to maintain extensive lists of property and alert executors, key family members and friends as to the location. Now they are encouraging clients to include of all of your online accounts, usernames, and passwords. However, just because someone has this information doesn’t mean they can legally access it. Doing so in violation of law or the website’s user agreement, could face prosecution. A good attorney will know your state’s laws governing this, as well as the site’s agreement. They’ll draft documents such as powers of attorney and guardianship to provide necessary access to manage these assets as to the wishes of the their client.

If you have not discussed this with your attorney, have a will or trust, or it has been a long time since you updated your documents, now may be the time to schedule this important meeting. The majority of people procrastinate this aspect of their life, and when incapacitation or death happens, a complicated mess is left for the survivor to sort through, which often results in damaged relationships among the survivors. Please save them this, by scheduling a meeting with your estate planning attorney today.