Many people, including attorneys and financial planners, are not addressing digital asset planning in a serious and comprehensive manner. Ignoring your digital existence will inevitably lead to a cybercrisis. First, let’s examine the reason we are ignoring the transition from attending to your personal life in paper and post to electronic entries.
Why are we ignoring our Digital Existence?
The reasons are quite logical.
If you are an average American, you associate estate planning with an activity accomplished
during your senior years so your digital assets aren’t even on the horizon of
Cryptocurrency is all the rage and the financial industry uses the term digital asset to refer to an asset that has a
monetary value; i.e. cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Etherium, Ripple, Neo, etc.) and
therefore we as a society are not associating electronic records, such as the username
and password to pay the mortgage, as an “asset”.
traditionally prioritized clients’ estate plans on assets that contain monetary
value. All assets with sentimental value
are addressed in a will and dismissed because traditionally there was no value
in naming every single item in a home.
Now that we rely on our digital existence to run our lives, the
process of getting to those assets is incredibly important, even if no monetary
value can be assigned to password and username.
Let’s look at a scenario: Uncle Bill dies and leaves you his big house. You go to his house with your parents and what do you look for? You look for information on the title, the mortgage, the bills, the taxes, etc. You look in the drawers in his desk, you look in the kitchen drawer, and you look in the nightstand next to his bed. You can’t find them!
Uncle Bill paid his mortgage online. Uncle Bill banked online and paid his taxes
online. In fact, Uncle Bill handled all his affairs electronically.
Do you know how to get into his computer?
Do you know if he AutoSaved passwords? Do you know the names
of the companies he used to pay his bills?
Do you know how to get the passwords from service providers?
Do you know if you are legally allowed to get the passwords
from service providers? If you don’t have an authorization form the terms of
service may apply. Accounts may be
Do you know if the bank is allowed to give you the password?
You need to have a digital estate plan for yourself and for your loved ones
before it’s too late!
Based on the law and the reality of our usage of these
different digital assets, each category needs their own solution. If it seems
overwhelming, take the next logical step.
Try a password protected spreadsheet or password management software to
start. Be sure to organize your
information and update it quarterly as accounts change. Make it easy to find on
your electronic device. Start organizing
your digital life now!