Last week I wrote about the importance of planning for your digital assets. If you read last week's column, you know that I feel this area of estate planning is going to become more and more important in the future. As we expand our online identities, planning for it is going to become inevitable.
Digital assets are essentially the things we do online and the digital content that we store. It's our email and Twitter accounts. It's our Facebook pages and our Flickr accounts. It's the things that we store in the cloud and on our jump drives. If you have a computer and you go online, you need to think about this stuff.
One problem is that traditional estate planning doesn't exactly lend itself well to this stuff. Another problem is that technology is changing so fast that it's going to be difficult to keep up. However, all this means is that we need to start thinking outside the box.
If you're looking for someplace to begin, start with taking an inventory of your digital assets. Make a list of all of your accounts and your digital content. Think about how and where it's stored. Then decide which items you want your family to know about and have access too.
If you want your family to have access to your accounts, list them along with the passwords. Remember, if your family can't get access your accounts, knowing about them isn't going to be much help. Put the list somewhere safe but make sure it's accessible. Or better yet, designate someone that you want to handle it and have a conversation with that person.
Something that I've started doing is adding language to my Powers-of-Attorney that specifically grants the Attorney-in-Fact access to the grantor's digital accounts. I'm not sure how it's going to hold up against the user agreements that we all sign when setting up our accounts, but the language should make it clear that the grantor intends for the Attorney-in-Fact to have access. If things get ugly, at least there is something for the attorney to hang his hat on.
Indiana has a code provision that grants a Personal Representative the authority to deal with digital assets so your wills should be och. As a reader pointed out, Indiana is one of the few states that has actually addressed digital assets as it relates to probate.
I honestly think that this is the next big thing in estate planning. I'm not sure what direction all of this is going to take, but I think that it is important to start thinking about it. We'll come up with a way to accomplish your goals, but you need to let us know what those goals are.