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Estate planning for the digital age

The digital age has created a new category of estate planning. Property stored online that has equal value requires the same level of protection provided for tangible and intangible assets.

Cutting-edge continues to evolve at a rapid pace while existing estate planning and probate laws struggle to keep up. Private user agreements written by tech companies mostly govern the steps your loved ones should take to access:

  • Online financial accounts (bank, credit card, brokerage, retirement plan, credit, online payment and insurance)
  • Online retail accounts and apps
  • Digital wallets and prepaid apps
  • Social media accounts
  • Blogs and websites
  • E-mail accounts and text messages
  • Software, music, movie and television show collections
  • Photo and video-sharing sites

Digital estate planning is a relatively new area. Federal regulations do not address bequeathment of these assets to your beneficiaries. Along with a handful of states, Oklahoma has laws mandating court orders or provisions in a will that allow estate executors to access e-mails, micro-blogs, and social networking accounts.

Proactive protection of your privacy and legacy

Just as you would pass on assets to your loved ones, you need to ensure that your family can open your online accounts for various reasons:

  • Accessing valuable assets that include bank and investment accounts
  • Downloading personal property, including photos and videos posted online
  • Removing an online presence to minimize reminders of the deceased
  • Deleting private data to prevent identity theft

Digital estate planning is not as simple as putting screen names and passwords into your will. In fact, data to access your financial or social media accounts are made public when your estate enters probate. List the information in a second document separate from the legal documents, but refer to it in your will.

Your family members are entitled to the peace of mind that comes with not only legal documents expressing your wishes, but also the proactive strategies necessary to protect your online legacy. Take the first step by contacting an experienced estate planning attorney.

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