Estate Planning for the Electronic Age
Millions of us use computers to transact business, social interactions, and for everyday communications. You are probably registered in some way on dozens of websites, including social media outlets such as Twitter, Linkedln, Instagram and Facebook. Although these outlets sometimes consume our lives because we want all of our friends and followers to be updated on our daily events and vice versa, have you ever thought of what you would want to happen to your accounts when you are no longer here to maintain it?
If you have not thought about this, do not worry, you are not alone. Approximately 30 percent of people have their presence continue on sites after their death. This is largely due to two factors:
- not providing anyone with log-in information or instructions on what accounts they have and what should be done with them and
- most accounts do not require the payment of any fees that would automatically cause them to lapse after nonpayment. This applies not only to social media outlets but other websites used to pay bills, shop online, make travel arrangements, banking, and even the “cloud”.
Identity thieves do not care whether you are dead or alive, but it would probably make it a bit easier for them if you, their victim, has passed away because you wouldn’t be able to catch them. While you are alive, you are able to frequently check accounts to make sure there has not been any suspicious activity. After you are gone, it would be easier for someone to pose as you for an extended period of time. Make sure that after you have left the real world, you have also left the virtual electronic one as well.
To ensure this does not happen, your executor or designated agent, is going to need a list of all your online identities and passwords. You will want to make sure that only the agent would know where to find this list and it would not be susceptible to an online hacker or a thief who breaks in to your home. You will also want to make sure this list stays current. It will not help if your agent does not have an updated list. You would not want to list these passwords in your Will since your Will becomes a public document once it is filed with the Court.
You will also want to provide instructions to your agent on what to do with each account. If you have files that you do not want anyone to see, let them know to delete them before anyone else gains access. Decide whether you would like accounts closed, set up as memorials or leave others in charge of your accounts.
Different states may have different laws pertaining to how much control you can have over these accounts. For this reason, it would be wise to check with an estate planning attorney. An experienced attorney can help you to create a Digital Diary as a part of your estate plan. For more information on digital assets and how to protect them, contact Russo Law Group, P.C. today!