Estate planning is a difficult prospect to consider for many people, but as digital technologies continue to evolve, a host of new estate concerns should be considered. Your assets are what you leave behind, and in the 21st Century, many of those assets are digital. How will your executor or family access and handle those accounts?
The World Has Gone Digital
Everything from how you contact your friends to how you handle your finances can be done digitally these days. If you’ve heard the saying, “There’s an app for that,” it’s true; there’s a myriad of mobile apps that a person could use just to help them track finances and spending across accounts. Social media has become a predominant form of communication, and may even become a source for shopping. Games now include micro-transactions for tiny bits of premium content. Even services that aren’t solely digital operate digitally on some level: have you signed up for a meal kit delivery service or a monthly subscription box where your account is managed online?
Sometimes these digital assets are obvious to look for — just consider the popularity of Amazon or Facebook — but this isn’t always the case. How will your executor, representatives, or family members know where to find your accounts? Do you know whether they will be able to access those accounts to close them? What if you want them to be able to use those accounts?
Here’s a list of things to consider:
- Banking accounts and apps
- Money-handling accounts and apps (e.g., PayPal, Western Union)
- Third party spending management apps (e.g., Mint, MoneyStrands)
- Investment accounts and apps
- Email accounts and their content (sent and stored messages)
- Messaging apps and their content (stored messages, any financial information for sending money via the app)
- Social media sites (posted content, stored messages, any financial information used to make purchases or send money)
- Video game services (e.g., XBox, PlayStation)
- Device-related accounts (e.g., Apple, Android, Windows)
- Streaming music services (e.g., Spotify, iTunes)
- Blogs (posted content, saved content or messages)
- Retail store accounts and apps (renewal contracts, shared content or messages)
- Loyalty programs and apps (e.g., Plenti)
- Subscription services (renewal contracts, shared content or messages)
Why These Assets Need Management
So why is this digital asset management so important? Like your other accounts and property, your digital assets are a piece of you that represents a financial, practical, or emotional value to your inheritors. It may even be a matter of protecting your identity after you’ve passed on. What if your Facebook account was hacked, and used to make fraudulent posts, messages, or purchases? This would be hurtful for your loved ones to see, and ultimately your estate may be held responsible for any losses.
Complicating the matter further is the fact that each device, game, app, and service has its own terms of service that you agreed to. This may provide a way to handle the account on your death, but it may not. Even if your family has the login and password information, them accessing your accounts may be deemed fraudulent, and if they don’t have that information, accessing the accounts at all may become impossible. Fortunately, in Illinois, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act went into effect in August 2016, permitting a decedent’s representative to access and manage certain digital accounts.
At Caldwell Trust Company, we offer comprehensive services that help ensure your goals are met and your intentions are carried out. Building digital asset management into your estate planning ensures that your accounts are recorded, your representative is clearly stated, and access can be achieved in a timely manner. Let us help you protect your values and your legacy, even into the digital age.