Estate planning is a necessary part of organizing your life and preparing your assets to pass on to family members and organizations after you’re gone. Valuable possessions such as houses, cars, jewelry, and bank accounts have long been documented through the courts. Estate planning attorneys have laws to rely on, which have clarified how to include real assets, securities instruments, and even intellectual property in a will. However, our lives now depend heavily on digital tools and resources.

Most laws are written up to date to protect the privacy of personal data stored online. However, few laws guide how to reassign valuables stored in the cloud, social media, and internet-only accounts. Taking the appropriate steps in digital assets estate planning can prevent your loved ones from having problems gaining access to your accounts in the event of your death.

Different forms of digital assets

Digital assets exist in various forms. Your professional photography, family photos, and videos stored in the cloud are priceless. Other assets such as domain names and bitcoin can increase in value over time and ultimately be sold. And what about social media accounts? What happens to them after you are gone? It’s important to make the needed preparations in advance and save your loved ones unnecessary heartache by giving access to your social media accounts in the event of your untimely death. LastPass is a powerful, encrypted password storage tool that enables users to store and organize usernames and passwords under one user accounts.

Online banking, savings, and brokerage accounts

Online banking and financial services have added more functions while becoming cheaper over time. Many virtual banks provide a way to save discreetly without receiving statements in the mail. If you are unable to access those accounts, however, someone you trust needs to be able to access them. Be sure to make a list of all your digital assets and accounts for which you do not receive mailed statements. Include brokerage accounts and any account numbers you use separately for trading.

What makes planning so important?

Many laws are on the books which say what people cannot do with your data. Criminal laws restrict unauthorized access to your data. Privacy laws prevent social media services like Facebook and Instagram from granting your beneficiaries access to your digital media accounts.  If you want them to be able to access and administer those accounts, then you will need to include those User IDs and passwords as digital assets in your estate planning. 

The data on your smartphone is encrypted. In recent years, financial services companies have begun to add multi-factor password authentication options to their log-in menu. All of this needs to be accounted for in your estate plan. Cloud storage is powerful and secure, but be sure to back up your data to an external drive. Give someone access to your personal physical data storage device if you become incapacitated. It will save a lot of time and stress for the person who needs access to your birth certificate, social security number, and other important information.

Name an estate planning attorney

Be sure to specify with your attorney who your beneficiaries are, as well as the individuals who you grant authorization to your digital assets. Make a list of URLs, User IDs, and passwords as part of your emergency planning information and include these in your digital assets estate planning. You can perhaps create more than one LastPass account and group your log-ins for access by multiple fiduciaries. 

Making estate planning for your digital assets part of your wealth management plan

Wealth managers have a Duty of Loyalty and Duty of Care to act in the best interest of their client when it comes to sensitive matters of estate planning. SD Mayer has over 30 years of experience working with estate planning attorneys to ensure their clients have peace of mind regarding the succession of their assets. If you are concerned about putting together an estate plan, they would be happy to give you direction on the matter. The world continues to change quickly, and an experienced financial professional can help you ensure that your loved ones are able to settle your digital accounts without any undue heartache.

If you have digital assets, SD Mayer’s wealth managers can help you incorporate them into your estate plan. With decades of knowledge and a holistic approach to financial planning, they will work collaboratively with you to ensure that your loved ones and beneficiaries will be taken care of. Contact us today to get started with an initial consultation.

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