Estate planning is no different from any other industry when it comes to the need to update its practice in order to accommodate the changing digital world. Transferring ownership of digital property owned by an estate is becoming a problem in the online world. It’s quite common for people of any age, but even those well into their 70s, to own online accounts or websites that either generate income or have monetary value that forms part of their estate when they pass. The challenge executors continue to face is gaining access to these accounts and funds in order to liquidate them, transfer ownership, or shut them down out of respect for the deceased. It is not always a matter of liquidating accounts; sometimes it can be simply closing an email account in order to protect it from potential infiltration and hacking.
New questions and hurdles are constantly surfacing from executors as online ownership becomes a more common thing. But how do you plan for it?
Estate Planning in the Modern Age
If you do a lot of business online, you likely know your way around the computer. No one is more familiar with your online holdings than you are, and once you pass it may be difficult to track down all of the sites and accounts you have online. As you start your estate planning preparations, create a chart that outlines what domains you own, what online accounts you have in your name, and anything pertinent on the internet that will need to be addressed when you die. Include passwords and any information required to access each item. This chart, once completed, will become a codicil to your original will because the chart is likely to undergo modifications over the years as your online presence changes.
Online companies pride themselves on their asset protection and are not willing to transfer ownership easily. It’s such a new thing in the estate administration world that the online companies haven’t quite figured out the best process for allowing access while protecting their privacy standards. Many internet-based companies are coming across this problem and are creating policies in order to deal with digital estates. Be certain to follow individual company policies and complete the required forms. Proper compliance with their fresh new policies is the best way to ensure a smooth transition of ownership. Remember it’s relatively new territory for everyone so it’s important to exercise patience as much as possible.
As a busy business person, it may not seem important to document your online ownership records to leave behind as a guide for your surviving family or friends. However in so doing, you can help to ensure your online assets are protected and available for your family should they require. Talk to a financial advisor at The Beacon Group of Assante Financial Management Ltd. to find out more about how to plan for your digital estate.