Do You Need A Digital Account Estate Plan?

Where do you keep your essential financial information and valued photos, videos, and family information?  In the past people would have had a lockbox, or safe, or desk drawer in which to keep financial information.  They may have had photo albums on the shelf.  Or maybe they would have had a file drawer with scrapbooks, family tree chart, or correspondence and awards, etc.  But now for many people those things are stored on a computer or hand-held device. Everything can now be done online from managing finances to communicating with family and friends, to maintaining calendars and contacts, storing family photos, and accessing books, music, and periodicals. Many of us have social media accounts and some even have a personal website. Each website or application requires a username and password. Who will be able to find and access of all of your accounts in the event that something happens to you?

Of course you should keep a list, but given the sensitive nature of the information, this list must be safe, secure,  and yet also accessible if something happens to you.  In the event of your disability or death, will your loved ones be fully prepared to access to your digital assets?

There are at least four important components of a good computer digital account (CDA) plan:

  • A digital asset inventory — create a list of your online accounts and digital assets (this must be routinely updated).
  • Security for the inventory — keep the list in a safe place to prevent misuse, but arrange for access to it when the need arises.
  • A designated digital fiduciary — choose an appropriate person to access and manage your digital assets in your absence and upon your death or incapacity.
  • Arrange for access — inform your fiduciary how to find your inventory when you cannot access it and authorize access your computer and electronic accounts with your passwords.

A good estate plan takes these items into account.  An experienced trusts and estates attorney can help you create and review a CDA plan as part of a comprehensive strategy to protect yourself and your heirs.

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