The 21st century has brought exciting new technologies. And has given us platforms to do things that were only dreamt of in Star Trek or the Jetsons. With these new on-line, or digital platforms, comes a whole new type of asset that we need to plan for – who can access these “digital assets” if we are unable to due to death or incapacity?
There are countless Americans who’ve failed to create even the most basic estate plan, and we’re all aware of the issues this choice creates. Even those who’ve planned carefully – those who have a comprehensive estate plan in place – tend to overlook a planning aspect that is new to this century: planning for your digital assets and accounts.
Digital assets are those you only have in electronic form. Think about your photos and videos (shutterfly.com and youtube.com). Think about your frequent flier miles, your CVS account, and your iTunes accounts. Can your loved access these areas and download your pictures? Who do you want doing this? Where do you want these items to go?
When it comes to this type of planning there are financial and social considerations to be made. Financial digital assets, such as online bank and brokerage accounts require authority for access. Download destinations like Amazon and Netflix, require direction to your successor trustee or agent as to access and handling of the accounts at your death. Social accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram, require similar directives.
Some of the on-line providers are starting to get out in front of this issue. In this vein, Google has launched an Inactive Account Manager feature, which lets you tell them what you want done with your digital assets on its various services (e.g. Gmail, Blogger, Google Drive, Picasa, Google Voice, YouTube) when you die. This service is a single example of what some companies are calling planning for your “digital afterlife.” There are several services that will store all personal digital information and release the data to the agent of your choice upon proof of your demise.
Estate planning strategies and practices change and evolve with the passage of law, modifications in tax law, and developments in the probate system. The evolving manner in which we interact and manage our finances and our on-line presence necessitate consideration of how we’ll plan for our digital assets.
To make sure your plan captures your instructions and has the proper authority, make an appointment today with one of our Estate Planning attorneys.
Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix, Scottsdale and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.
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The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.
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