While people previously went to the bank to complete financial transactions or walked into a brick-and-mortar store to purchase goods, today many of these types of transactions are completed via the Internet. From banking and investment accounts to frequent flyer and photo sharing sites, increasingly people are favoring digital over more traditional ways of doing business and storing information and data. This begs the question, what happens to these digital accounts and assets upon one’s death?
People who choose to do their banking online, set-up a Facebook account and communicate via an e-mail account tend to do so because it’s easier and faster than alternative methods. However, in the event an individual fails to account for their digital assets in an estate plan, there’s nothing quick or easy about trying to discover or gain access to these accounts after a loved one’s passing.
It’s important, therefore, that individuals who have digital accounts include these accounts in their estate plans. According to a Pew Research study, an estimated 51 percent of Americans bank online and, in the coming years, this percentage will likely only continue to increase. In addition to being able to access online banking and investment accounts, it’s important to ensure that loved ones are able to access social media accounts as well as music and photo sharing and storage sites.
People often have more digital accounts than they realize. It’s wise, therefore, to meet with an estate planning attorney who can help an individual identify all of their digital assets and ensure that those assets are accounted for in a will. A fiduciary should then be named to carryout one’s wishes with regard to the distribution, dissemination or retention of assets and information contained in digital accounts.
Source: USA Today, “Estate Planning 101: Don’t forget digital assets,” Eric McWhinnie, May 25, 2014