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Estate planning in the digital age

| Jun 19, 2019 | Estate Planning |

So much of people’s lives now take place in the digital world. From saving and sharing family photos to hailing rides and ordering basic household supplies, it is hard to think of something that cannot be easily accomplished on the internet. While the internet might make life easier, not everyone in Lake Charles is handling estate planning accordingly.

There is a lot of personal data out there, and accessing it after a person’s death is not always easy. Some people may even think that giving their family members access to online data is not that important in the first place. But what about important information stored on a smartphone that is protected by a passcode? Or financial information only accessible through a bank’s website? These are considered digital assets, and like all other assets they belong in an estate plan.

For some digital assets, it is sufficient to include usernames and passwords in a will along with a designated individual for accessing those accounts. However, some websites and accounts do not recognize third parties as authorized users. This means that even if they are using the login information provided to them through a will, they might be accused of engaging in hacking.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act addresses this problem. The RUFADDA gives people the ability to designate a trusted individual as a fiduciary who has legal access to digital assets. These fiduciaries may be able to access those assets only after a person’s death, or in some cases if the other person becomes incapable of managing his or her accounts. Powers of attorney, wills and trusts can be used to accomplish this.

Assets are more than just physical objects. While this might be a difficult concept at first, most people in Lake Charles understand that less tangible objects — including retirement accounts and money in checking accounts — are also considered assets that must be protected. Because of this, it is important to fully address digital assets during estate planning.

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