Digital assets becoming part of estate planning

Adding digital assets to estate planning is quickly become common practice.
March 14, 2014 3:32:48 PM PDT
It's something you probably don't think about. What happens to your social media and other on-line accounts, when you or your family members pass away?

DOWNLOAD: Digital Estate Planning Questionnaire

Facebook recently updated policies after a father wanted to view his dead son's "year in review" video.

From your Facebook account to your 401K, precious and personal details about your life are living online. So what happens to all of that information when you're gone?

The ABC7 I-Team found out what you should be doing, right now.

Think about all of your social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Vine. And don't forget about your family pictures in a cloud.

"And then the kids are looking for their baby pictures later on," said Ken Banas. "Then how do you get access to those pictures?"

Lisle resident Ken Banas recently added a "digital assests" section to his estate planning to make sure his family has access to his on-line life when he is not around or if he becomes incapacitated.

"I probably have 70 accounts with passwords and it is hard enough to keep track of all of those passwords," he said "As the organizations are doing a better job of ensuring security, it makes it that much harder to have access for people when you are gone."

Even without a password, Facebook will work with immediate family members.

A new option allows privacy settings and creative control to stay the same. Facebook will also memorialize a page or delete the account.

Other social media sites have different policies.

"Everything is evolving, this is all new," said attorney Stephen Sutera. "I think as this continues to happen the industry will have to work with the legal community so everyone is protected."

Sutera started adding "digital assets" to estate planning about five years ago, but within the last year it's become common practice.

He says if you can't afford an attorney, you should write all of your accounts, user names and passwords down and keep them in a secure spot.

"You need to be tracking as you are setting up your accounts," Sutera said. "Tracking the password , tracking the security questions they are asking you, even those they are making you change."

And it's not just social media, attorneys used to tell families to collect a loved one's mail when they passed.

"They're not getting statements and financial reports in the mail they're checking their e mail for that so again we don't even know where the accounts are unless they are giving us that information," said Sutera.

"It's a document that I hope doesn't need to get used for 60 years," Banas said. "But I feel much better now knowing if something were to happen to me that my wife and kids are protected."

Studies show that almost 75 percent of Americans online are on some type of social networking site. Most have probably not thought about what happens to all of those accounts, in the long term future.

Download a digital estate planning questionnaire and print a copy so you can start keeping track of account information.


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