Estate Planning in a Digital Age

Estate planning in a digital ageA recent article in Forbes highlights an estate planning misstep that many Americans make, without even realizing it. Even the most conscientious of those who have hired an estate planning attorney, created a will, assigned health care and financial powers of attorney, and informed their family can forget a crucial aspect of their estate plan: their passwords.

By now, most people are aware that they shouldn’t give out their passwords; instead, they should be safely tucked away so that no one can access their important personal or financial accounts. However, this practice can make it more difficult for family members to carry out their wishes at the end of their life.

Forbes gives an excellent example of how keeping your passwords a secret to the grave can cause difficulties for your family. If you became seriously ill and were hospitalized, you would need someone to pay all of your bills. Imagine, Forbes says, that you empowered your brother to do so as your financial power of attorney. However, what happens to your finances if you do not receive your bills or bank statements in the mail? If you receive paperless statements in your email, you’ve just locked your brother out of quickly taking care of your finances. Without access to your email, your brother would have to provide proof of his power of attorney to account representatives, delaying the process and potentially harming your finances.

It’s not just your online financial accounts that can cause problems, however. Consider all of the places where you have accounts online. This might include your Facebook profile, Twitter profile, Youtube account, and email accounts.

To prevent the hassle and delay that locked online accounts can bring, include your passwords in your estate plan. Your representatives should have access to the important passwords that they will need to execute your estate plan. Consider storing your passwords in an online password storage service, which will securely hold your passwords. Using this service will obligate you and your representations to only have to remember one password (to the service).

You should also include in your estate plan your wishes for those online accounts. Do you want your Facebook profile deleted? Should your email accounts be deleted, or are there important emails in your inbox that need to be saved? How will your heirs divide your YouTube videos of your child’s first steps or your family vacation pictures saved on Flickr? You can address these questions in your estate plan.

Everyone needs an effective estate plan, no matter their age or wealth. If you have questions about your estate plan, contact a Huntsville estate planning attorney at Martinson & Beason, P.C.

Source: You Just Locked Out Your Executor and Made Your Estate Planning a Monumental Hassle” by Nancy Anderson, published at