One area we sometimes see our clients struggle with is online passwords and accounts for digital assets. “Digital assets” is a broad phrase and has been defined to include “any online and any file stored on a person’s computer or a server.”
Obviously it is helpful if people put a list together of their online accounts and accompanying identification codes and passwords. This should include automatic payments that you make; automatic deposits that you receive; email accounts; and social media accounts.
You should think about everything that you do online and ask yourself “would it be easy for my successor to access that account?” If the answer is “No,” then you should think about needs to be done to make the answer “Yes.”
You should also make sure that your estate planning documents, including your trust and your power of attorney, allow for your “agent” or “successor” to gain access to your accounts.
What about pictures and videos? Family histories and family memories may be lost because people do not know they exist online or do not know how to access them.
Pre-internet, it was pretty easy to be a “detective” and ascertain the deceased’s finances and see all of their personal items. You looked at the mail for a period of time; got out the most recent couple of years’ of tax returns and went through the house. There might also have been a safe deposit box.
Today, you can certainly do all of the above, but without knowing about the deceased’s life on the internet, there is a good chance something will be missed. It may not be (or it may be) an economically valuable asset, but it certainly can be.
The lesson meant to be conveyed is that it makes sense to put a list together listing our online footprint!