Over 50 Years Of Experience

Plan for your digital estate

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2022 | Estate Planning |

Traditionally, estate plans include paper documents that are kept in a lockbox or file cabinet, but our lives are now conducted largely online. Digital information is necessary to transact business and pay bills. Blogs, cryptocurrency, and social media accounts now constitute personal assets.

Plan

Estate planning must address these digital assets and information. Illinois has a digital assets law that provides family members and executors with access to a decedent’s online accounts. But you should also prepare clear and current instructions on your digital assets to help your family and your executor resolve your estate.

Otherwise, your executor and family will likely face the almost impossible challenge of locating passwords and accounts. Banks, credit card companies, email services and other providers may not provide access or even basic information to executors and family members without specific authorization because of data privacy and criminal laws.

Take these steps

Your wills, power of attorney, and trusts should authorize someone as your agent for your digital transactions. Powers may include the ability to access, control, sue, deactivate, or delete digital accounts. Agents need the ability to access, control, use, deactivate or discard digital devices.

You should limit the number of family members or friends who currently assist you with your business transactions and daily affairs so that they can have access to the same information and act expeditiously. Numerous helpers may act at cross purposes and many affairs will remain unknown.

You should back up your data frequently. Use an automatic backup system if you can. Maintain a storage account with an online custodian and store important information on external devices.

Compile an inventory of all of your accounts. Draft a current list of login information and passwords and keep it in a safe place that is known and accessible to your executor and family. If allowed, provide legacy contacts and inventory agents for accounts.

Operating and business shareholder agreements need to be reviewed. A succession plan addressing digital assets may be needed.

An instruction letter to your executor and family can help them handle your estate. For digital assets, it should contain directions on handling your digital assets. Address items such as whether assets should be transferred to friends or family, and whether certain accounts should be kept or deleted.

Avoid

Do not keep password lists in a document on your computer which identifies its content. An online vault or password management tool provides protection.

Having one or just a few passwords, especially based on known information such as your birthdate or pet’s name, is a security risk. Passwords must be varied and current.