Estate planning has come a long way since the days of the guys in pinstripe suits and gold pocket watches. In a world that has become more digitally-oriented, it is important to take this factor into account when doing some pre-planning for the inevitable end of the line.
Digital estate planning is something that more Americans are becoming aware of due to the fact that an increasing amount of personal and business assets are now held in virtual formats rather than paper. When one thinks about the implications of this in terms of needing to have a clear picture of an estate’s true holdings, it is easy to see why even the best planned estate that was laid out a decade or so in the past is now seriously obsolete and in need of major upgrades.
Since everyone has online accounts of one form or another, and all of them are protected by differing passwords due to their varying password requirements, the estate planning game has changed.
It’s important to note that having access, and having legal permission are two separate issues. A modern digital estate plan therefore needs to designate not only all of the online components, but also extend legal permission to some chosen person to get into those accounts and perhaps make changes—such as altering passwords to prevent other parties who may have had some informal sort of access while the decedent was still alive.
It is also important to consider the possibility of having what are in effect both a personal, and a professional executor. One may not want certain people to be looking into a lifetime of unguarded social media and e-mail posts even though they are well-qualified to handle all of the financial aspects of the situation.
Any one who is interested in getting their affairs organized should certainly proceed in a rational progression of events. The first necessity is to accumulate all of your data into a single place where it can be quickly and easily located upon passing away. Don’t forget to set up at least one backup location, as well as building a final fail-safe in the form of assembling hard copies that can be used to reconstruct the estate in the event of some form of digital failure taking place. This information must be kept updated diligently, or else it will not be of much more use than doing nothing at all.
The next step is one of empowerment. Many digital assets are very fast-paced in nature. As a result, an executor needs to be properly designated and provided with all of the information that will allow them to take charge immediately. This can help prevent catastrophic losses while information is being assembled. The old phrase “Internet Time” is not heard much anymore but it is very valid in this case. Blink and you’re dead—or at least the value of your estate might be. Make sure your executor can keep their eyes on the objective.
The final step is to provide crystal clear guidance. The purpose of an executor is to carry out your final wishes, so far as is legally or humanly possible. They can’t do much if they don’t know what those wishes are. So remember that the key to any estate, digital or otherwise, is to concentrate, designate, and clearly instruct.
We understand that rapid advancements in technology have made things more difficult and confusing for some folks. We urge you to contact one of our estate planning attorneys in Corona, or Orange County for further information on making arrangements for your digital assets.