Digital Estate Planning – Who’s Got the Password?

By Joseph L. Goldman, Esq.
jgoldman@pashmanstein.com

As on-line activity continues to grow, so does the importance of digital estate planning.

Digital assets are on-line accounts and information stored electronically.  These include social networking sites, on-line banking or brokerage accounts, on-line consumer transaction sites, video sites, photo storage sites, blogs and more.  Although most people realize how important it is to protect user names and passwords to avoid identity theft during their lifetime, they may not realize that the same protections could result in heirs and fiduciaries being denied access in the event of the death or incapacity of the account holder.

Some on-line sites have started addressing these issues but their policies vary considerably.  Only a few states have enacted legislation covering digital estate planning.  Neither New Jersey nor New York is one of them.

In planning your estate, you should consider the following:

  • Take inventory of your digital assets;
  • Make a list of all your devices and accounts and their user names, passwords, PINs, etc.;
  • Consider giving authority to your agent named in your Power of Attorney to access this information;
  • Give authority to the Executor of your Will or the successor Trustee of your Revocable Trust who will act as Trustee after your death to access this information;
  • Do not put user names and passwords in your Will or Revocable Trust.

Don’t leave digital estate planning to chance.  Instead, make it a part of your regular estate plan.

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