Berman & Asbel, LLP

Does Your Estate Plan Encompass All It Should?

Who needs an estate plan? I don't have an estate.

Sadly, this is a widely held misconception, which is why the topic comes up so often in forums such as this post.

The truth is that an estate can be made up of all sorts of things. Big-ticket items, such as your primary residence, your vacation home, a boat or car, count. But small things with sentimental value deserve to be counted as well. Things such as a deceased loved one's wedding or engagement ring and photographs that have special significance can have value And where value is attached, there's reason to include it in an estate plan.

Even Virtual Assets Are Estate Plan Worthy

Since the proliferation of the technology age, digital assets have begun to accumulate. Because electronic-format items lack material form, they can be easily forgotten. Legal observers who study this particular segment of estate law warn it is time to get serious about acknowledging digital assets and include them as part of a solid estate plan.

The issue is not limited to personal digital assets. Growth in the digitizing of business documents suggests the scope of your estate plan may need to be expanded to include your business to ensure continued, smooth operations in the event of your death.

The Law Might Not Be in Your Favor

The reason for the double red flag, is that the laws in many states regarding the handling of digital assets are not keeping up with the development of the Internet. For example, a company holding your personal or business data could block your executor from accessing information that might be contained in transactional emails or on social media platforms.

Suggestions

  • Be clear, in writing, about what digital assets an executor can access and which should be deleted.
  • Avoid using usernames or passwords in your will, which becomes public record, and instead secure the information in a password management application and instruct the executor on how to access it. As further backup, you might consider having instructions for access on paper, but be sure it is kept in a highly secure manner.
  • If you have digital media accounts, such as Google Play or iTunes, you may need to leave access information in a place and manner that will be accessible to your executorl. It is also wise to check with your service provider to see if you can indicate in your privacy settings or preferences how the account should be handled if you are no longer around to manage it.

Because laws are forever changing, it's wise to speak to a skilled estate attorney at Berman & Asbel to be sure all your bases are covered.

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