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Estate planning and digital assets

When it comes to planning end-of-life matters in Florida, people often remember to take care of their wills, trusts, power of attorney and life insurance, but they might not know how to address their digital assets. Because digital information can remain online for years, estate planning should include a way to handle digital property. As with physical and tangible assets, digital information needs to be left in the care of someone who is trustworthy.

Digital information can range from the obvious, such as bank accounts and email, to data that might not be as noticeable, such as social media, a blog, membership in an online group or online trading. Federal legislation doesn't address how to handle these matters, so the executor of the estate will often handle it. In other cases, the site manager, such as Twitter or Yahoo email, will take over and determine what will happen to each account. Any questions related to how these matters will be handled can be addressed by a professional estate lawyer.

People can follow a few basic steps in order to secure their digital information. First, they should take inventory of what they have, including all financial and personal accounts. They should next list all their accounts and passwords for each site and keep these lists in a safe place, such as a secure website, on a USB drive that's locked up or in a safety deposit box. Next, they should name someone to manage their digital estate, preferably someone who understands technology and who is trustworthy. Finally, they will need to list in detail what will happen to digital assets.

Estate planning has changed over the years. Now, it involves both physical and digital assets. An estate planning attorney might be able to help a client with organization of their digital assets.

Source: Motley Fool, "How to Prepare Your Digital Assets for Death", Daryl Paranada, March 09, 2014

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