Digital assets, including email accounts, blogs, websites, video channels, social media accounts, digital photos and other files stored on a web-based cloud, are more prevalent in today’s digital economy, which is why they are of increasing importance in the estate planning process. Gaining access to these accounts will be critical for the executor – whether it’s to close the accounts or to export the digital files into an alternative format, without a list of the digital assets, complete with credentials for account administration, these digital assets could be put in jeopardy.
In a recent article, “Web Meets Will: Consider Digital Assets in Estate Planning,” Mark Trubiano, partner of trusts and estates at Cavitch, Familo and Durkin, lent his expertise:
Trubiano suggested, “As estate owners create these lists, generally have an idea with respect to what they have online would be my biggest piece of advice. They should have that list ready and provided for the attorney, and to update it frequently, as these lists get out of date pretty frequently.”
We often don’t think about our “digital selves” but many of these online social media applications will send your connections updates to remind them of your birthday, your work anniversary, the anniversary of when you connected, etc… as these accounts remain open after death. In addition, much of today’s business is done digitally using online bill pay and automated transactions connected to email accounts. In the past, it would be typical to monitor the physical mail coming into the mailbox for a few months to know what accounts to cancel – utilities, credit cards, subscriptions, memberships, etc. However, many of these renewals are coming into email accounts now instead, and without access to email accounts, there could be countless transactions occurring after death.
Estate Planning should, at minimum, include a list of all things digital with usernames, passwords and other credentials for obtaining administrative access. There are also a number of secure tools that can be used to collect this information continuously, keep it updated, and make it easier to transfer access to your executor. For additional expertise about estate planning and the consideration of digital assets, contact Mark Trubiano.