If they don’t, it’s probably a good idea to ask an attorney to help you update one or both documents to protect your digital assets and protect your Personal Representative or your family members/loved ones who will need to deal with your digital assets when you can’t anymore.
I’ve written on this topic before (see three-part series in archives)- it’s a relatively new and very real concern that many people just aren’t accustomed to considering. Technological advances continue rapidly, and we’re so pleased to have the advantages of digitalizing our bank accounts, bill-paying, and investment accounts; our pictures and music; our communication and social media; our businesses and records (just to begin the long list). But, if we don’t think about these digital assets as “assets,” we may make a mess for ourselves or our representatives/caretakers that, in some cases, can’t be fixed – at least not very easily.
What if something happened to you tomorrow? What would your spouse, your kids, your parents, your friends do to pay all the bills you’ve got set up on your bank’s bill-pay system? What about all the monthly automatic payments or orders you’ve set up on your accounts? How about your email and facebook accounts? If you don’t have a list of account numbers, user names, and passwords that you update regularly, your caretakers or your Personal Representative will likely have a very difficult time even figuring out where to begin, let alone trying to access, alter, or transfer anything you’ve set-up.
If you were taking care of, for example, your father, I don’t think most people realize you can’t just call up his bank or his email account and get access or credentials without advance planning and legal authority.
Here’s my advice:
First: Sit down and write out a list of all your digital property, accounts, storage, equipment (computers, phones, tablets, etc.), networks, social media, email accounts, domain names, web hosting services, etc……all of it! You’ll be amazed how many digital assets, services, and devices you own or use.
Second: Think about who should handle/control/shut-down/receive these assets if a) you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated, or b) you are no longer alive.
Three: Make sure you understand what you need to do to protect these assets and ensure the right people can have access to the right information when they need it. This may or may not need to involve an attorney. This step could be as simple as writing down your credentials for all these assets and letting people you trust know where to access this list – keep it in a safe place! It could also include updating your Will, Power of Attorney, and/or Trust. (If you don’t have any of these documents, I’m going to send you back to my home page and ask you to read why you ought to consider getting one or all three of these documents!) If you do have any of them already, look to see if digital assets have been addressed. If not, an update could fix that. Call an attorney and tell them what you’d like to update.
In the meantime, if you’ve read this far, you may be interested in Digital Estate Resource:www.decorolaw.com
ALL READERS: This blog is not, nor shall it be deemed to be, legal advice or counsel. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. It is designed to encourage thoughtful consideration of important legal issues with the expectation that readers will seek professional advice from a licensed attorney.Contact Bridget-Michaele Reischl at: DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC 6 West 5th Street, Suite 800-D Saint Paul, MN 55102 (651)-321-3058