Articles Posted in Digital Assets

Information in this article is current as of the date of publication. The policies, regulations, and laws within are subject to change with the IRS, state, or federal legislature.

There’s no denying it: It appears that cryptocurrency is here to stay.

Once confined to hidden corners of the internet, cryptocurrency transactions are now accessible to almost anyone through popular payment platforms like PayPal. Even top financial advisors are now counseling investors who can afford some additional risk in their portfolios to invest in crypto. Indeed, earlier this month, El Salvador became the first nation to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender.

With the emergence of technology that becomes more and more a part of people’s everyday lives, it is important to keep these digital assets maintained for future usage. While people may not think about these assets—such as social media accounts, financial accounts, and emails—when drafting an estate plan, Texans should create a digital estate plan. This document identifies who should handle this information after the drafter has passed away and what to do with these digital accounts. Because this is an emerging area of estate planning law, below is an explanation of the steps Texans should take to create a digital estate plan with the help of an experienced attorney.

1. Make a List of Every Digital Asset

The first step in creating a digital estate plan is to make a list of every digital asset a person owns—this includes social media accounts, online banking accounts, and passwords to any website. As a part of this list, people should mark where the data is stored, whether online, on the cloud, or on a physical device, and their username and password for the accounts. This inventory will allow the executor—the person who will have access to the digital assets and follow the instructions according to the drafter’s wishes—to have all the relevant information at their fingertips.

Individuals are normally told not to share their passwords with anyone for security purposes; however, there is one important exception. Individuals should make sure they have shared their passwords with a loved one, in case of their death. Doing so can be critical, as digital assets have become more and more prominent. People store important information online now, with no recourse if the person dies without giving someone else permission to access their digital information after their death. Below are some tips that individuals can use – either when crafting their Houston estate plan or afterward – to ensure their digital assets are not lost after their passing.

Creating a Digital “Vault”

Estate planning advisors will often tell their clients to create a drive or “vault” to store important documents and information. This can include estate planning documents, copies of personal identification, credit card information, and mortgage paperwork. Individuals should also include their digital login information and passwords too in this drive, so estate executors and loved ones have the ability to access it.

Traditionally, a Houston estate plan has primarily focused on the distribution of tangible property upon a person’s death. However, now that we are firmly in the digital age it is important for everyone to consider how digital assets should be addressed in an estate plan. Digital assets and information include just about anything that is primarily accessed through a digital platform. Examples include social media accounts, email accounts, photos and videos stored on a computer or in the cloud, online banking and investment accounts, and even cryptocurrency.

How do Digital Assets tie into your Estate Plan?

It is important to spell out how such assets and information should be treated within an estate plan. Those who do not have a will leave their loved ones and estate administrators with no access to them. This could result in the permanent loss of data and information stored on an electronic device. With all of the memories we capture and store using our phones, that could be the equivalent of losing years’ worth of family memories. Perhaps even more alarming is the prospect of losing access to financial accounts that are primarily accessed through online banking. If an estate plan is silent about such assets, loved ones may have to put up with the headache and added expense of getting a court order just to access a decedent’s digital accounts and information.

2.4.20A will or trust explains what you want to have happen to your assets when you die, hopefully in a very, very long time. While most people understand that a will explains what to do with money, property, and children, there are other parts you might be surprised by.

MSN’s recent article entitled “3 surprising things you might not think to include your will” tells about three things to include in your will that you may not have thought about before.

 

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8.5.19A will serves several purposes. It gives you the power to distribute your possessions, according to your own wishes. It also lets you name who should take care of your children, if they are minors when you die, and of your pets, if you provide for them in the will.

Just because your wealth isn’t measured in billions, doesn’t mean you don’t need a will. Without one, explains Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “Do You Really Need a Will?” you’ll have no say in what happens once you pass away. There may also be less for your heirs to inherit. There will also be more legal costs and stress.

Each state has laws that pertain to the distribution of a person's estate, if they die without a will. These laws most likely won’t mesh with your personal desires. If you don't have a will, ask yourself why you don't. Perhaps you think you don't need one. However, more than likely you do. If you're putting off starting this important estate planning task, here are some things to consider.

7.3.19Digital property needs to be addressed in your estate plan just as tangible assets like real estate. Not planning for a digital afterlife is increasingly important.

How many hours do you spend on your smart phone, laptop or desktop, busy with work emails, personal emails, social media platforms, gaming, networking and more? In addition to the time spent, chances are good you have many digital properties: photos, music, financial accounts and more. Today’s estate plan needs to include your digital afterlife.

Without a clear plan in place, it can be a major headache for your family when you pass away, says The Street in the recent article, “Estate Planning in a Digital World.”

5.21.19With the average American owning more than 100 online accounts, we now have to address the issue of digital estate planning. It’s not as simple as gathering up the sticky notes with passwords that adorn your desk.

What would happen if you died unexpectedly and your executor needed to access your bank and investment accounts? If you’ve gone paperless for everything from bank accounts to investments to cable bills, how will they be able to gain access to your accounts? Welcome to the age of digital estate planning.

Kiplinger’s recent story, Your Estate Plan Isn't Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem,” says that having online access to investments is a great convenience for us. We can monitor bank balances, conduct stock trades, transfer funds and many other services that not long ago required the help of another person.

12.31.18The swiftness of fires and flood in the news in recent months, even in places that have never experienced dramatic disasters, puts a spotlight on the need for preparedness. That includes your estate plan.

The evening news presents enough reminders about the need to plan for disasters. However, many people feel like it can’t happen to them, or they don’t know what to do. Forbes’s recent article, “How To Make Your Estate Plan Doomsday Ready,” looks at a couple in their 80s, who recently had their house in North Carolina destroyed by Hurricane Florence, and the picture of what has occurred should be a life lesson for all.

This couple depended on their adult children, who were all in other states, to help—but there were many obstacles. They didn’t have access to a computer and couldn’t remember account information or their passwords or even how to access their email. They asked their daughter to go online and pretend to be them, to begin accessing information. OK, that may not be legal, but desperate times can call for desperate measures.

8.28.18Whether your estate plan documents are stored in the cloud or a filing cabinet, make sure to tell your family members, representatives and executors where you’ve placed these important documents.

Chances are you spend a lot more time online with your digital assets than you think. With digital assets and our comfort level with life online growing daily, it’s a matter of time before your start wondering about placing your documents in the cloud. However, as noted by CNBC in a recent article, “Here's what you need to know before storing your will online,” there are pros and cons to this brave new world.

Some of the benefits to storing important information online, include portability and ease of access. Your documents will be available anywhere there’s an internet connection.

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