Estate Planning for the Digital Age

In today's modern world most people have a digital presence, if nothing els, an email account.  So, what happens to those digital accounts when you pass away?  Most people do not realize that it may be impossible for their loved ones to gain access to their important emails, or other accounts online once they are gone. Estate Planning for the Digital Age Estate Planning for the Digital Age

While this may seem like a rather innocuous problem, the Ajemian family would disagree.    Find out how to prevent this from happening to your survivors.

According to a recent article in Forbes, the family has been fighting Yahoo! in court to gain access to their deceased brother's email account. The fight isn't over either. Currently, the case is in Probate & Family Court to decide "Whether the Stored Communications Act, a federal law, prevents Yahoo! from divulging the account contents to Ajemian's siblings, who are the administrators of his estate.

So What Is the Solution?

There are currently no laws that address this topic, there are options available to you to prevent a costly battle similar to the Ajemian's family with Yahoo!

While these steps are not foolproof, knowing your options and planning ahead can minimize problems for your family later.

  • 1. Beneficiary Designations.  Google is the trendsettter with its policy which allows you to name a person to receive your emails after your incapacitation or death.
  • 2. Sharing Your Passwords While this goes against everything you have learned about your online security, you do not need to divulge the passwords to anyone.  Simply keep a document with your updated online accounts, usernames, and passwords in a safe place and notify your power-of-attorney, or executor of your estate where to find such information in the case of your death or incapacitation.
  • 3. Account Hijackers.  If you do not leave password .
  • 4. If you Distribute Unequally, Explain Yourself.  Perhaps you do not like talking to your children about your financial decisions, you are not alone.  The simple act of leaving a note to explain your decisions may alleviate any resentment between your children.  Just explain in the note you love all your children and the reasons for your distribution decisions.
  • 5. Use a Trust to Eliminate Uncertainty.  In an effort to promote responsible financial decisions-making, you can use a trust to distribute your estate assets to your beneficiaries.  A properly written trust can be structured to make partial distributions to your beneficiaries when each attains a certain age, for instance at ages 25, 30, and 35.

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Estate Planning Requires Clarity

The biggest take-away from this article, is the importance of clearly communicating your estate planning intentions either to your family and beneficiaries, or in your estate planning documents.

If you would like to learn more about your options when leaving an inheritance to your children call (440) 530-3605 to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney at The DiCello Law Firm.

REFERENCE: AARP - Estate Planning, Jean Chatzky (April 2013) "How to Leave an Inheritance to Your Kids" 

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