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THE INTERNET AND ESTATE PLANNING

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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

The world has changed dramatically in the 20 years that I have practiced as an estate planning attorney. When I first began, computers were still relatively new as a tool to be used by an attorney. Additionally the Internet was in its infancy and was used for little more than a resource such as an encyclopedia. But that is all changed now. The Internet is an important part of every person’s life today. This importance also now includes a person’s estate planning. Here are three important things that you should know about how the Internet has or could affected your estate planning and what you should do about it.

1. Social Media

Your social media accounts are an asset that belongs to you. You may not believe it but many social media providers including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and others take protecting your account and your personal information seriously. Despite recent news about personal information being made available through Facebook, the fact of the matter is each of these social media providers makes a tremendous effort to protect your information. In fact, they work so hard at it, that they make it difficult for your family to access your social media accounts even if you would like them too.

The simplest and easiest way that you can protect your social media account information and still make it available to your family is to prepare a written list that contains your accounts, including your usernames and passwords. However, we do not recommend that you make this list on your computer where it is digital. Rather we advise our clients to hand write this information in a notebook, or on a simple sheet of paper. This is the best way to keep a record of your social media accounts. You can then make a photocopy that you can hand deliver or mail to your family so that they will have a copy of it.

2. Email Accounts

In a similar way you could also provide access information to your family and loved ones about your email accounts. When you die, your email accounts live on. Often, your email accounts have correspondence in it that your family would love to keep. However, unless you provide your username and password to your family it is likely that they will be unable to access your email accounts. The reason for this is that most providers of email accounts follow their own protocols and rules. Normally providers of email accounts will keep your information completely confidential even if your family provides proof of your death and legal documentation showing that they have a right to access your assets. For this reason again this information should be included on your hand written list of your digital assets.

3. Digital Money

The final thing that you should be aware of is how you use or utilize digital money in your life. These days, most people have a PayPal account, or online banking, or some other digital payment service they use. Additionally, more and more individuals are investing in cryptocurrencies and other digital monies. Each of these items is considered a valuable asset that you own or have access to. However, if you become incapacitated, or if you were to die, it is possible that these assets and monies could be lost forever. This is especially true if your family is unaware that they exist.

Again, to make your family aware of your ownership of these digital monies, and to provide access to them, we encourage our clients to include these accounts and all the information necessary to access these accounts on the hand written list that you create. Also, because technology is continuing to change, and because the accounts that you have may change we encourage our clients to keep their hand written list updated and current. The handwritten list that you create should be reviewed at least yearly to determine if any of the information is now different. This is especially true as it relates to passwords because these often are required to be changed.

The bottom line is that the Internet has made our lives vastly more accessible and in many ways easier to live. However because of the Internet, it is important that you work to keep your estate planning updated. The internet can assist you with this and can help keep your estate planning current.

When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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