My, this is become a hot topic.
And this topic appears to be of special interest to Millennials who are contemplating their own morbidity and mortality, perhaps because they have grown up so tech-savvy.
Many of them have quite an investment in their "digital portfolios," too.
Enter Andrew Magliochetti in a story reported in the New York Times titled “Plan Your Digital Legacy, and Update Often.”
Albeit still in his 20s, Andrew had his will prepared.
While planning for his other earthly stuff, his will made provisions for his digital assets, to include digitized family movies, social media accounts, digital currencies and domain names.
Andrew stored his passwords, including those for Facebook and Twitter, on a password manager his executor under the will (i.e., his brother) could easily find and access.
Then, Andrew uploaded family photos and movies to a file-hosting service so they would be easy to share.
Unlike Andrew, many folks who should know better fail to include digital effects in their estate plans.
Consequently, these potentially valuable assets may go unnoticed and cause unnecessary time (and money) to be wasted attempting to find them.
There are some assets like digital currencies that exist only in cyberspace.
Think video game characters and Internet domain names.
Unlike that ceramic bullfrog collection, you cannot put these intangible assets in a safety deposit box.
What about your Facebook photos or email addresses?
Getting postmortem access to social media accounts can be difficult because laws governing digital assets vary by state. Online sites concerned with user privacy have drastically different terms and conditions that sometimes exclude executors.
What to do?
Create an inventory of your online accounts and their passwords, but do not include them in your will.
Practically speaking, you will cannot be changed every time you change your online account information.
Simply explain how you want each account handled if you die, with the terms and conditions for each site included. Save this inventory in an encrypted file, a safe, and with your estate planning attorney.
Feel free to go ahead and download the Virtual Assets Instruction Letter (VAIL) we provide to our clients as part of their estate planning.
You should also authorize your executor to obtain access to devices and online accounts and to reset passwords.
Be sure to store your photos on a computer or local storage device rather than relying solely on an online site. This step will make them easier to retrieve.
Better yet, save them on two storage devices in separate places, like a home safe and perhaps even your attorney's office.
Some assets are just incapable of being passed on to heirs.
For example, your ckassic rock iTunes library cannot be passed to your loved ones as digital music and your e-book purchases are nontransferable.
Why is that?
Because they are personally licensed to you as the user. You can only leave these assets if a user agreement permits it.
Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to help you cover all of the bases with your estate planning.
So, how do you find an "experienced" estate planning attorney?
First, ask around. Friends, family and other professional advisors are trustworthy sources.
Second, conduct an "organic" search on "Google" for "estate planning" near you (e.g., "Estate Planning Anytown MoKan").
Third, either way, verify. Check out the education, experience, ratings and client reviews of any attorney before you contact him or her.
In fact, I use both of these services to thoroughly vett attorneys before referring members of our "client" family for legal help in other areas of law or for matters in jurisdictions outside Kansas or Missouri.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: New York Times (November 11, 2015) “Plan Your Digital Legacy, and Update Often”