When gathering information on assets for an estate plan, some Massachusetts residents may forget about their online accounts. These digital assets also need to be included in the estate planning process. It is not always easy for heirs to locate assets in cyberspace -- especially if they do not know what to look for.
Informing heirs of what digital assets an individual owns is as easy as listing them in a will or trust. Of course, including usernames and passwords to those accounts in a will or trust is not a good idea. That information can be put into a separate document whose location can be made known to family and/or the appointed executor of the estate.
Unfortunately, having knowledge of an access to those accounts may not be as simple as it sounds. Every account has its own terms and agreements regarding access. Many companies only allow the account holder to have legal access. Otherwise, another individual would be in violation of state and federal law. Lawmakers are still catching up to the available technology, and until that happens, accessing accounts after death could be problematic.
Thankfully, some companies are beginning to address these issues. As leaving digital assets to heirs becomes more commonplace, laws may have to catch up. In the meantime, Massachusetts residents can help heirs by making a detailed list with all of the information needed in order to deal with these accounts after death. Knowing that the assets exist, where they are located and how to access them is the first step in ensuring that heirs receive their full inheritance and completely wind up a loved one's affairs.
Source: USA Today, "Estate plan should pass down digital heirlooms", Sue Doerfler, April 17, 2014