Estate Planning for Digital Property

Not long ago our most valuable and important information was stored in filing cabinets, safety deposit boxes or shoe boxes in the closet. These days a great deal of our critical information is stored online and we have created innumerable accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We also do a ton of business online using accounts that require password and user IDs to access. This includes not only payment of bills and financial dealings, but also purchase of digital and other assets from such sites as Kindle and Amazon.

The amount of digital information is also increasing at an incredible rate. For example, in 2014 a study found that the amount of information in the digital universe would fill a stack of iPad Air tablets reaching 2/3 of the way to the moon and that by 2020, there will be 6.6 stacks.

If you become incapacitated, your agent in a power of attorney will likely require at least some access to your digital information, including passwords and user IDs. And if you pass away your executor will definitely require that information in order to carry out the fiduciary duties expected of an executor.

Although some sites allow you to name someone to have control of your account when you die (Facebook, for example), the best way to ensure that what happens toyour digital information and accounts is what you want to happen is to inventory your digital information such as accounts, passwords, user IDs, etc. Leave that information accessible to an agent in case of incapacitation and to your executor in the event you pass away.

If you have too many passwords and IDs for a list or to remember, there are a number of password managers such as Dashlane, Last Pass and Sticky Password that allow you to store all your passwords and gain access to all of them with one master password. This is especially effective when you create new accounts as these password managers will ask you if you want to store the password and user ID while or after you’ve created a new account. I use one of these and when I first signed up I believed I had in the range of 30-40 accounts that needed passwords and user IDs. Then I had 73. Now have over 100.

Planning is the easiest way to pass on your valuable and sentimental digital assets. Attorney David J. Maldonado focuses on two areas: guiding families on the best path to having their affairs in order and leading startup and growing businesses to success with a solid legal foundation. A lawyer and businessman for almost three decades, I stand ready to assist you today by helping you turn “I’ve been meaning to do that…” into “I did it.” Families and business owners call today, 713-880-3329. www.maldonadolawyer.com.

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