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Digital assets, access should be considered in estate planning

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2014 | Estate Administration |

After someone passes away, an estate administrator will generally need to take care of settling a person’s estate. This can be a very difficult and complex process, especially if the deceased has not left an estate plan with instructions on what he or she wants. Whether there is an estate plan in place or not, it can be very complicated to sort out who needs to be notified, which assets must be collected and distributed, which debts need to be paid and what forms must be filed.

One way that people can make administering an estate easier is to provide representatives with the information they will need to access accounts, So much of our information is stored online and in our emails these days that once a person passes away, this information could be virtually inaccessible without the proper permissions and passwords. 

A primary obstacle that estate administrators can face when it comes to collecting digital assets is knowing that they even exist. They may know to look for information about bank accounts, investments and savings accounts, but there are so many more assets that people can build up online that can be completely overlooked. These can include airline rewards, photographs, online gaming assets, social media accounts, music files and eBay inventory. 

That is why people may want to consider keeping records of these accounts and assets in a safe place along with any passwords or usernames that may be required to access the information. Different sites have different rules when it comes to accessing or transferring the information, but if an estate representative has the information needed to identify these accounts, it can be an enormous help. 

When online accounts or email notifications are ignored, there can be some serious penalties that an estate can suffer. Bills can go unpaid or recurring bill payments can continue even though the service is no longer needed. Rewards points can go unused. Accounts can be illegally accessed and drained by unauthorized users without anyone realizing it. In order to limit the possibility of these things happening, people across New Jersey may want to consider discussing their digital assets with an attorney.

Source: Fox Business, “Tips for Planning Your Estate for the Digital Age,” Karen Haywood Queen, March 21, 2014


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