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Does your will include access to digital assets and accounts?

How current is your will? Unless you have a section of your will or other estate planning documents that specifically addresses the issue of your digital property and assets, it's a good time to update.

Digital property and assets are quickly becoming one of the trickiest areas of estate planning to navigate, mostly because the laws haven't kept up with the times.

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Revised (2015), has tried to put digital assets and property (including online records of financial accounts) into the same category as traditional, tangible assets and property for the purposes of handling someone's estate. However, states are having a hard time catching up.

Only a handful of states have enacted laws specifically addressing access to email, social media accounts, blogs and other electronically stored information in the event of someone's incapacity or death -- and Pennsylvania is not one of them.

Not leaving someone the necessary information to access your online accounts and the legal authority to do so creates both a financial risk to your estate and unnecessary emotional grief for your survivors.

If no one can monitor your online credit card or bank accounts, identity theft is easier. Identity thieves can scan death notices and try to use the information that they glean there to hack into the accounts of the deceased, open new cards or run up existing ones through online purchases.

Other digital property may not have much financial value, but they contain significant emotional value for your survivors. Some survivors find it painful to see a loved one's social media account expire after a period of disuse. Years of memories, thoughts, comments, jokes and photos can be lost that way. Online photo albums, storage sites and email accounts can also provide your loved ones with records of your life that they find invaluable. Other important assets can include gamer accounts, domain names, digital music, client lists, digital art and manuscripts.

By creating a list of digital accounts and assets, plus the passwords and password retrieval information, you make your executor's task much easier. By specifically authorizing your executor to take control of these accounts, you can often circumvent a lot of the legal hangups that are stalling the adoption of the UFADAA.

An attorney.experienced in estate planning can help you ensure that your wishes are followed upon your death.

Source: Everplans, "A Helpful Overview Of All Your Digital Property And Digital Assets," accessed Feb. 03, 2017

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