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Estate Planning and Digital Assets

Estate Planning and Protecting Your Digital Assest

Our Idaho Estate Planning Attorneys know that estate planning involves not only tangible assets such as houses, cars, and similar things. It also includes any intangible assets you own which are items that you can’t physically touch, but that have value. For example, we live in a digital age which means that most of us have online “accounts”, such as e-mail, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Many of us also have online money accounts such as PayPal, peer to peer lending, and investment and retirement accounts. While having digital assets is convenient, our Estate Planning Lawyers in Idaho understand that under present law, it is not entirely clear who can access and manage your digital assets when you die.

Our team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho use the experience they have obtained over decades to customize each client’s estate planning, and to advise our clients, especially when it comes to handling their all of their assets. Our partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson, and attorneys Nathan Palmer and Dave Bagley create our award winning Idaho Estate Planning team of Attorneys who can help you.

When it comes to electronic assets estate planning laws in most states including Idaho, have not kept pace with technology. Many of the companies responsible for administering digital assets are concerned about violating applicable laws. These companies are also fiercely protective of their users’ privacy. Additionally, many states are working on legislation that could help protect yourself and your electronic assets.

Despite this, the process that applies to managing most tangible assets should work with other assets as well. Specifically, there are 3 simple steps you can take to proactively protect your digital assets.

1. Create a Handwritten Account List

It’s pretty easy to grasp the fact that if your family doesn’t know you have a PayPal account they won’t be able to access it. You can eliminate the fear of your account sitting out in internet ether for eternity, especially if your family will need that asset. To accomplish this the most important thing you can do is to create a written list of all your accounts, electronic and others. Your written list should include your usernames and passwords, password prompts and/or security questions for each of your electronic accounts. However, and this cannot be overemphasized, it is important to keep in mind that your list is full of sensitive information. Do NOT type this list on your computer. To protect it, your list should be handwritten.

It is fine to create a photocopy of your handwritten list to keep in a safe place but do not type it on your computer, or scan it, or e-mail it to anyone. Electronic thievery is real, and it happens all the time. If you ever lose the list then treat your accounts like a lost or stolen credit card. Change all of your passwords or report your problem to the company and close your account.

Keep in mind that your handwritten account list should not be a part of your Will or other estate planning documents. These types of documents at some point must be filed with the court and become part of a public record that anyone can access or copy. Instead, leave instructions on where your list is kept, and how to access it.

A second thing to keep in mind is that your e-mail is included as one of your valuable electronic assets. Your email accounts should be accessible to your loved ones after you are gone because they will be important for them to manage your assets. You likely receive communications from your financial institutions and other accounts via email which will help your family know about and manage your digital assets.

2. When You Can Name a Backup Person

Next, some companies that provide online accounts for you allow you to name another person who can access your accounts even if they aren’t the “owner” of the account. Google, for example, created an “inactive account manager” option for users that allows them to name a person to be contacted when an account is inactive for a certain period of time. Likewise, Facebook recently began allowing users to name another person as a “legacy contact” for their accounts when they are inactive.

Additionally, many online money account companies, like traditional banks, investment accounts or other financial institutions, allow you to name beneficiaries or joint account holders as well. Every online money account should provide you with the ability to review the account agreement and/or provide other options for you to make or change your elections online. If the online account you are using doesn’t provide this then contact the company to find out why. If there is no such option then you should consider switching to a company that provides these options.

3. Provide Specific Instructions to Your Loved Ones

Finally, don’t plan on using your estate planning documents to control your digital or electronic assets. However, you can still use your estate planning documents to tell your loved ones what your specific intentions are. You can use your Durable Power of Attorney to explicitly state that your named fiduciary has the power to access and manage your digital assets for you while you are alive. Then use your Last Will and Testament to give your personal representative this same power when you die.

It is true that the estate planning laws concerning electronic assets are quickly evolving but the reality is that they have not kept up with the digital age. However, by completing the simple steps listed above, you will be comforted in knowing that all of your assets are protected and that you can pass them on to your loved ones along with your regular assets.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

If you own any type or kind of an electronic asset or account, our Idaho Estate Planning attorneys can help you protect these accounts and make them accessible to your loved ones. We are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email us directly at racine@racinelaw.net. We will answer your Idaho Estate Planning questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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