VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Modern estate plans include access to digital assets

Email accounts, social media profiles and cryptocurrency are just some of the more common digital assets for people in Florida. Someone building an estate plan should include information about how to access online data because finding passwords after a death can prove difficult for heirs. To start the process, an estate holder should write a list of all online accounts and their login credentials.

The list should include information about passwords for all of a person's devices, including any smartphones. In addition, it's important to include online accounts such as cloud storage sites, password-protected files and registered web domains. After taking inventory of digital assets, the estate holder would then consider who will attend to them. Someone who understands digital assets and computers might make a good choice as the executor of digital assets.

Google and Facebook have also recognized the necessity of addressing accounts held by deceased individuals. For people with Google accounts, the system allows them to set up an automatic response after a specified period of account inactivity. People can choose for their accounts to delete data or forward access to as many as 10 other people. At Facebook, accounts can be memorialized. The account remains as a memorial, but no one can edit the account anymore.

A complete estate plan will need to cover more than just online life. The guidance of an attorney could help a person understand all of the elements that go into estate planning. Legal counsel could research how tax laws might affect heirs and propose strategies for limiting one's overall tax burden. In some situations, trusts might serve a person's purposes. With legal representation, the estate holder could explore how to achieve specific goals like caring for a special needs person.

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