Online Account Planning

Plan for your intangible assets.

If you have been serious about estate planning, you know what will happen to your home, investments, savings accounts, personal property, and mementos after you pass. But what will happen to all the property you have that does not exist in any physical form?

Now that we all live huge parts of our lives online, most of us have accumulated more “digital assets” than we realize. These include vast archives of email correspondence, personal information on social media, money in a Paypal account, and the rights to personal and professional websites. What will happen to all of these assets when you’re gone?Your first reaction might be to dismiss the contents of your online accounts as irrelevant or of little value, But, just consider all the confusion that could occur if access to these accounts was not included as part of your estate planning. Social media accounts can continue unmonitored. In addition, without access to official or sensitive information that is only available online, the proper distribution of your assets can become significantly more complicated. Your estate may also face dangers from fraud or identity theft if online accounts containing personal and credit card information are not promptly closed down, such as your Amazon, PayPal, or Netflix account.In order to avoid confusion and setbacks, online account planning is now considered a standard feature of comprehensive estate planning. Dictating who has access to what parts of your online life in the event of death or disability require working with an attorney to formalize your wishes.

The first and most important step is to identify the accounts that contain relevant information and record the login and password details. Even if you allow access, it is difficult or even impossible for a third-party to get into your email or social media profiles without the exact credentials or knowing the location of different accounts and profiles. It is also important to realize that you can permit access to some of your online accounts but deny access to accounts or information that you deem too personal or sensitive.Next, you should establish estate planning documents naming someone to act on your behalf in case of death or disability. For example, a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney can provide someone you designate with authority to access, invest, manage, and distribute personal property and manage or delete digital accounts.Finally, review the terms of service agreement (TSA) associated with each of your online accounts. Different providers permit different levels of access for third-parties. For example, in 2015 Facebook, changed its policies to allow users to designate a friend or family member to continue managing an account after a user’s death. Some TSA facilitates the transfer of an account, while others create restrictions. Exploring the details of these agreements in advance is an important component of the online account planning process.Like all aspects of estate planning, the earlier you make it a priority, the better. The percentage of your life that exists exclusively online is growing all the time. In the event of death or disability, that part of your life could be blocked off from your family, making an already difficult time even harder on the people you love.

When you’re ready to get serious about estate planning, contact an attorney from Schloemer Law Firm, S.C.