When planning your estate, don’t just think about tangible money and belongings, think about your virtual assets. Take the time now to consider who would be the best person to manage your e-mail and social networking accounts should you become mentally incapacitated or die. Who would you like to give access to for your online payment portals like banking accounts or PayPal? Would your trustee or executor even know how to log in to your computer or tablet?
These are all considerations we must deal with now that we have an ever-growing amount of digital property. Without a solid plan, automatically paid services like Netflix or Pandora could continue to be charged to your account, or even larger payments like utility bills, insurance premiums or installment payments that are on "autopay" and cannot be stopped because only you have the pin or password. Your family might have to hire forensics experts or get court orders to gain access to the accounts.
As part of your estate planning process, it is a good idea to create a detailed inventory of all your virtual assets. Consult your estate planning attorney to understand your state’s particular laws, determine your virtual asset providers’ (banks, credit unions, investment companies, Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) policies and make a plan that will work for you and your loved ones.
Here are just a few examples of virtual assets:
- Online banking passwords and account numbers
- Brokerage and investment account numbers and online passwords
- Passwords and account numbers for any other financial accounts you might access via the Internet (mortgage, health or auto/home insurance, health/life insurance, bill payment)
- Information on any accounts on auto-deduction
- Entertainment or leisure related passwords (music, movies, accounts with shopping sites, EBay)
- Self-publishing sites
- Email and voicemail passwords
- Social media passwords
There are more and more websites devoted to helping organize your virtual assets. Both Legacylocker.com and AssetLock.net enable users to release account information to designated beneficiaries after their death.