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.
When loved ones – or executors – do not have access to this digital information, issues often ensue. Loved ones will spend months combing through paperwork and notes, hoping to find their loved one’s digital information. Otherwise, information may be lost after a person’s passing, never to be retrieved again. While this may not seem important, this may mean losing access to bank accounts, family pictures, and other critical personal information.
Include Access to Digital Information in Estate Plan
Beyond creating a “vault” for digital assets, estate planners advise clients to incorporate a provision into the estate plan allowing the executor to retrieve these digital assets. Without such a provision in the estate plan, the executor will be unable to access online information and shut down digital accounts.
Estate planning advisors also recommend creating a spreadsheet with all of a person’s accounts and passwords, including for social media and payable accounts like Venmo or PayPal. This is because there have been previous incidents of social media accounts remaining active after a person has passed and being hacked and utilized by someone else. This obviously can be extremely hurtful and upsetting to the family of the deceased. Thus, individuals should include a provision in their estate plan to allow their executor to access – and remove if so wished – their digital accounts after their passing. Otherwise, the executor – and the individual’s family – will have more problems after the person’s passing.
Because the prominence of digital assets is emerging, aging individuals should contact an estate planning attorney who can help incorporate digital information into estate plans.
Need assistance? Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one needs help crafting a Houston estate plan, or integrating digital assets into an estate plan, contact the experienced attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. Our attorneys stay up to date on any relevant changes to federal and Texas law. Additionally, we are knowledgeable about emerging technologies that should be included as part of an estate plan. To talk to an attorney and to schedule a consultation, contact us today at 713-333-8900.