Estate Planning in a Digital World

While the majority of people don't plan ahead for their death, it is safe to say that most of us don't know when we are going to die. Even if you are in the minority of terminally ill people who are given a life expectancy of a couple more months, there are cases in which people survive five more years after hearing these words. In essence, life is precious, and in the blink of an eye it can be taken, or in some cases it can keep on going. Today, we are very much living in a digital age. Everything that we do is basically runs off of something that can think more than we can, namely a computer or some sort of database.

When it comes to estate planning there are a lot of factors to take into consideration such as who will get what, who will carry out the plans, etc. What we often times don't consider is the fact that because our entire lives run off of the digital world, it may be extremely difficult for someone to access this information in the event that you and your spouse die. For example, you probably don't have your Facebook account information just laying around do you? If you die, will the world still think you exist because you children have exhausted all the options for taking it down after you pass away? What about things like your iTunes account or the internet prescriptions you pay for on a monthly basis? Will the executor you give responsibility to after death even has the slightest idea of all the things you are currently connected to and paying for?

Many adults are frequent travels, whether it is for work or for family and friends. Over the years of traveling, you establish frequent flier miles, and a lot of money is put into accruing those free miles. And yet, if you die, there are actually some airlines that won't let these things transfer after you die. Believe it or not, there are a few lawsuits open against Facebook by parents trying to get the right to have the access to their adult children's pages. And state laws are prohibiting this from being granted because of various privacy laws.

When it comes to the rules of estate planning, they are pretty basic. When you meet with your probate lawyer you work together to formulate the plan that best suits you and your family, divvying out what is appropriate to whom. The question then is how you make sure that your executor is well prepared for when you and your spouse pass away with your internet information? In estate planning laws there are no explicit laws that break down what to do with the internet or your digital assets, which is why leaving a clear trail of your wishes and your password is so essential. While internet experts will always warn users to never leave a paper trail of all your passwords around, when it comes to estate planning that is basically what needs to happen in order to makes sure your business and affairs are fully taken control of by your executor.

How do you do this? First off, make a list of all your digital items that you have. This would include your cell phone, electronic tablets, computers, online assets, etc. Now that you are aware of the things that may contain a password, now you need to determine what goes where. Make a list of the password to get into each device as well as a password with all of your online bank accounts, your social media info, and password protected documents, etc. Anything and everything that may have an online password needs to be thoroughly documented and put into a place where your executor can find it. When dealing with bank accounts, not only do you want them educated on the numbers and passwords, but also when the payments are due and what needs to be manually paid for and what is automatically withdrawn.

Now that you have all of your online and digital information and passwords written out, make sure that you choose a trusted and intelligent executor who will carry out these essential aspects of your estate. This is going to be a person that you know will honor your requests and also be knowledgeable in finances to a certain extent. Contact an estate planning attorney in your area for the legal guidance you will need for this process.