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Digital-assets-graph

Think you don’t need to include your digital assets in your estate plan, think again! But planning for them will soon be easier in Minnesota!

In years past, I have written and given speeches on the importance of digital assets and planning for them at death. Caissa is happy to announce that the state of Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that is aggressively acting on this. In the spring of 2016 a bill passed that will allow a person to grant powers to a personal representative through a will or power of attorney document to allow access to their digital assets at death. Many who support this are trying to get this law uniformly passed across the country.

Digital Assets and Estate Planning

In case you haven’t seen any of our past posts, we have a gap in our estate planning that does not address all of the assets we own digitally or in the cloud. In this day and age, many of us have multiple online accounts such as email and iCloud accounts, Amazon , Dropbox, PayPal and Facebook to name a few. These accounts are valuable in that they may contain monetary assets, personal data or stored information. For example, your PayPal account is directly linked to your checking account and may have a cash balance accrued in it. Perhaps you are storing all your family photos and important tax documents in Dropbox. Amazon has saved your credit card information and that credit card has its own account with a balance due on it. If the PR cannot find or is unable to access the accounts, your digital footprint could live on forever if not shuttered. This could leave your accounts vulnerable to hackers or identity thieves and the PR would never be the wiser.   If someone hacked into a PayPal account, for example, they could access the linked checking account and cash balance or possibly obtain your credit card information from another stale account and rack up large amounts of debt. Alternatively, if the PR cannot access these accounts, these assets as well as your photos, important documents and emails can be lost forever.

So what can you do??

You can have your attorney insert a paragraph (via an amendment) into your will that specifically grants authority to your PR to access (or NOT to access) your digital accounts.   In addition, you can sign up for an online account and password aggregator like LastPass. LastPass is one of many aggregators that will store the URL, user ID and password of any online accounts you choose. Additionally, when requested, it will generate obscure and complex, multiple-digit passwords for your accounts while remembering them all for you. All you need to remember is the one password to get into LastPass. If you started using a system like this, your PR could access your online account aggregator and have a predetermined list of all your online accounts – like a digital net worth statement! Keep in mind the PR will need to take the proper steps to be careful not to “pose” as the deceased by impersonating them. Over the past few years, digital assets continue to be a larger part of our daily lives and will only become more and more of an issue to address in estate planning. Financial Planners and attorneys need to evolve with the times and enhance their knowledge in this area. If you are seeking help to address your needs for estate planning, be sure to ask your hired professional what their expertise in this area is.

Caissa Wealth Strategies is a fee based registered investment advisory firm, specializing in personal, dynamic wealth management. Based in Bloomington, Minnesota, Caissa financial planning professionals provide individualized strategies for every client. You can expect more from CAISSA, and in turn, you will get a fiercely loyal advocate on your side. For more news and information on wealth management solutions, visit Caissa Wealth.