Including Digital Assets In Estate Planning
The proliferation of social media platforms and their widespread use by billions of people has created a new, essential aspect in planning your estate. We all have photos and videos we have created and uploaded to the internet. Some have used streaming services to gain an audience for intellectual property in the form of music and film. We at Phelps LaClair are well aware of the many avenues available online for communication and for sharing and storage of digital information. The big questions for today are: What happens to these digital assets when we die? What is available to protect our digital legacy in Arizona?
We tend to put a lot of trust in the security of the information we upload. We have social media accounts, online shopping accounts, online banking apps, etc. And in fact, we can easily lose track of who knows what about us. Your digital profile is most likely known around the world and accessible to anyone who spends the time to search it out. Address and phone number, social security numbers, financial information, medical records; the list is practically endless.
This information does not go away when you die. Unless you take steps to have your accounts closed and data recovered upon your death, your identity is available to hackers who would like nothing better than to assume your identity and sell your information. For that reason, your estate planning needs to take into account how your digital inheritance will be handled when you have passed away.
It is important to decide how to close social media accounts, and who will be assigned to take on the task. Facebook will allow a designated representative to handle the details of memorializing your account. Google and Gmail will let a family member or legal representative apply for the content of your accounts, but they will not guarantee access. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram will accept a request to deactivate your account. Yahoo gives no access at all, but you can request closure.
Most of these platforms will require legal documentation before anything can be done. The burden of proof that someone has power of attorney (POA) to handle digital legacy accounts is best established in your trust by naming a representative (POA and/or Trust Administrator). As part of your estate planning, you may want to include sensitive details on your financial services, such as banking and PayPal accounts. However, it is not wise to list user names and passwords on any document that will become a matter of public record.
A New Horizon
This is no longer your grandfather’s world. Estate Planning has always had to change with the times. If you want to know more about asset protection in the digital age, come in and talk with us. At Phelps LaClair, we understand the intricacies of our digital lives. We can certainly help you plan how to protect your digital legacy in Arizona.