Do you have a cell phone? Use e-mail? Bank online? Pay bills online? Store your photos in the cloud? Do you use MyChart to manage your medical records online? Do you keep in touch with family and friends via Facebook?
In our increasingly digital world, it is increasingly difficult for our loved ones to access our important information when we need their help during our life, or to deal with our assets at our death.
It used to be that if you became ill, incapacitated, or died, your loved ones could look in your file cabinet and desk drawers to locate your important account information, look in your paper address book to locate the contact info for your extended family and close friends, and look in your photo albums for treasured family photos. Now, with nearly all of this information stored online, or in an electronic device such as a cell phone, most of which are secured and password protected, this important information is not readily available to those who might need it.
We hear daily about phishing scams and online accounts that have been hacked, and as a result, laws are being enacted to ensure our digital asset assets are secure, and digital asset custodians (Gmail, Apple, your bank) are implementing measures to ensure you are the only person accessing your online assets. As a result, if you do not properly authorize another individual to also have access to your digital assets and communications, it is very difficult for a loved one to access this information in a time of need.
There are essentially three main ways to authorize another person to access your digital accounts on your behalf:
1. Some account custodians (Google, Apple, Facebook) allow you to make these designations in your account settings.
2. In your Power of Attorney document, you can specifically grant your Agent access to your accounts on your behalf during your life to help you manage your affairs.
3. In your Last Will and Testament, you can specifically grant your Personal Representative the authority to access and control your digital accounts, including shutting down accounts like your e-mail and Facebook.
Talk with one of our estate planning attorneys to determine how you can protect your digital assets while still granting your important people access to the information should they need it.