As we explained a few years ago, the internet has changed how we look at estate planning. No longer is estate planning limited to the management or distribution of assets such as real estate, bank accounts, life insurance or investments. With the ability to store personal data, manage assets on-line and create digital content (think of Facebook for example), a person’s estate also includes their digital assets. Too often however those digital assets are overlooked when it comes to estate planning which can cause problems for family members or other heirs.
A recent article: “When Doing Estate Planning, Don’t Forget to Include Your Digital Assets”, The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2020, explained that when an on-line account holder dies or becomes incapacitated, the owner’s heirs and beneficiaries can be blocked from financial and non-financial accounts, including banking, investment, credit card, email, social media, etc. This can result in not only being unable to access these accounts, but also for non-financial assets like digital photos or family tree information being lost forever. To avoid leaving a mess for your loved ones, the article recommends:
a. Re-examine your estate plan - If you have an existing estate plan, make sure it addresses your digital assets. A few years ago, Michigan adopted the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” (FADAA) which should be part of your estate plan.
b. Create a list and keep it safe - Create a list of your digital and on-line accounts so your loved ones can administer your estate. Be sure to keep it in a safe place with your estate plan.
c. Update your settings - Some on-line accounts allow for the designation of a representative in the event of death or disability.
The electronic world has brought enormous changes to how we live. It is critical that your estate plan adapt to these changes. To make sure your loved ones can access your digital assets, see an experienced elder law attorney today.
Elder Law Today is written by Brett A. Howell, Certified Elder Law Attorney. The newsletter is published as a service of The Elder and Estate Planning Law Firm, P.L.L.C. This information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For a consultation to address specific questions, please call (810) 953-3846