In a world where we conduct and share so much of our lives online, it is essential to consider what happens to our digital footprint after we pass away. Do family members have the usernames and passwords needed to access all your financial accounts and pay bills in your absence? Can they access all the apps and smart devices used to manage your home? Can they download all the photos, videos and music you curated over your lifetime and shared on social media? Planning for these assets after death is critical to ensure your wishes are followed and your legacy is preserved as you intend.
Start by creating an inventory of all your digital assets, where they are located and how they can be accessed, including your login information, passwords and answers to security challenges. Following are just some of the assets you should consider:
Once you create a catalog of digital assets, you may want to store the information in a safety deposit box or with a password-manager app, such as LastPass, and share those details with a personal representative you name and your estate-planning advisor. Never store sensitive login information on paper or on your computer where anyone can gain easy access. Similarly, you should never include your login information in your will, which could become public record upon your death. However, wills and other estate-planning documents should contain the names of personal representatives you authorize to access your digital assets and explicit directions on how you want them to continue managing your online accounts or taking steps to delete or deactivate them.
Apple, Google and Facebook make this process easier by allowing you to designate a legacy contact to manage your account after you are gone. Similarly, some states, such as Florida, have laws that enable residents to authorize named fiduciaries to act on their behalf and in their best interests when it comes to accessing, managing and controlling all of the personal and business-related digital property they leave behind after death. As a result, surviving spouses can continue to pay bills, file tax returns and manage a range of financial accounts without any interruption.
Keeping estate plans updated with the rapid pace of technology is a requirement in our increasingly digital lives. Doing so will help to preserve one’s legacy online and offline.
About the Author: Eric Zeitlin is managing director of Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs and a registered representative with PWA Securities, LLC. He can be reached at the firm’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-8888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., 19th Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.
Eric Zeitlin is a registered representative of and offers securities through PWA Securities, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC.
This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.
Any opinions are those of the advisors of PWA and not necessarily those of PWA Securities, LLC. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of PWAS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Prior to making any investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.
Posted on November 8, 2023