Digital Estate Planning

Digital Estate Planning

Planning for your digital estate after you die may seem a morbid topic, but is just as important as making a will or a family estate plan that deals with tangible assets. Digital estate planning is a topic that is often overlooked in meeting with traditional estate planners. Lack of a plan for digital assets can not only lead to real-world financial losses, but also leave executors, beneficiaries and other family members in disagreement and frustrated over carrying out your last wishes.

Have you recently used a personal computers, smartphone, iPad or any portable device to access the internet or store confidential information? Then it’s almost a given that personal data such as social security numbers, bank accounts, credit card numbers and passwords will exist on these devices? Do you have other confidential data or emails stored on these devices? If such personal data falls into the wrong hands it can be used to steal identities, misappropriate personal assets or impugn reputations.

Other considerations include automatic bill payments for phones, cable TV, club memberships and subscriptions that will continue on after your death, and virtual assets such as unused airline miles, credit card reward points and Paypal accounts. Think also about your online presence. When the time comes, do you want it leave it to your loved ones to decide whether to modify or erase or memorialize your online social media sites? If you own a small business or internet site, does your family know how to log into online financial accounts, blogs, Twitter accounts and websites? Making things more complicated is that fact that accessing a deceased’s online accounts may run afoul of service agreement terms and federal privacy laws. Ultimately, isn’t it our responsibility to determine how exactly we want to handle our virtual assets and online presence and when we die?

A digital estate plan expresses your intent of what you want done with your digital assets to family members and business colleagues, in case you die prematurely or are even incapacitated. Just like an estate plan or living will, a digital estate plan gives instructions and appropriate account access to digital executor or family member to secure your personal data and digital assets, and wipe or destroy any privileged information

In future blogs, we will expose how social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn deal with your online presence after your passing. We will share the death policies at online mail accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and AIM Mail from AOL, and give you the best advice on how you should dismantle multiple email accounts. We’ll also compare digital estate planning tools such as Legacy Locker, SecureSafe, Estate++, AssetLock and others so that you understand their features and can decide which are best for your needs. In all these areas we will give you the best advice to plan for your online presence and secure your digital data when you die.

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