In today’s ever increasing digital world, most people have online accounts for a variety of services. Some of these services are financial ones, such as investment and savings accounts. In addition, items such as websites, social networking accounts, email accounts, airline miles and credit card rewards are also common. One aspect of estate planning that many individuals neglect is transitioning these online accounts after death. These accounts are classified as your personal digital property by law. Therefore, it is within your rights to pass them on to your loved ones.
Don’t Let Your Money Get Lost
Passing along items of value are the primary reason to include online accounts in your estate plan. If you have an online savings or investment account, but neglect to document it, it essentially becomes lost money. No one knows to look for these online accounts after death, and the companies that manage them aren’t going to seek out your heirs.
Ease the Legal Transition to Your Heirs
Another reason to document this information is to allow your loved ones to pay utilities or mortgages during times of your incapacitation or immediately following death. As estate settlements can take months to finalize, it’s important that all bills are current until the estate is settled.
Though digital property laws are still in their infancy, most court rulings have favored the rights of heirs to take possession of online accounts after death. However, many online sites resist this transfer for various reasons. If your wishes are documented in a legal estate plan, taking possession of the accounts will be easier.
Create An Online Account Inventory List
To properly document these online accounts, start by creating a basic inventory list. The list should include the name of every website along with your username and password for each. In addition, write down the answers to any security questions that the site requires. You can create the inventory on paper, or on a cd or digital file. The most important step is to notify your loved ones of where the inventory is located. In addition, provide a copy to your estate lawyer to include with your will and other legal documents.
For more information on how to create an online account inventory or to discuss your digital property rights, please call Mindy Felinton at Felinton Elder Law & Estate Planning Center.