The Digital Estate
5 Tips for Estate Planning
in the Information Age
in the Information Age
Online transactions are here to stay, so it’s more important than ever to include your digital footprint when making or updating an estate plan. Here are five tips to consider:
1) Create a list of bill payments
As more people switch to paying bills online, executors cannot simply collect mail and go through paper files to identify services to cancel. Create a list of any utilities, memberships, subscriptions, or other online expenses so your designee can pay final bills and close accounts.
2) Don't forget banking and brokerage accounts
It is also becoming more popular to bank online and manage brokerage accounts electronically. Without a list of institutions and account numbers, these assets could easily be overlooked.
3) Update retirement plans and life insurance policies
Many life insurance and retirement accounts now send quarterly statements by email, so be sure your executor can access those if needed. This is also a good time to review your named beneficiaries, as those provided when the account was opened five, 10, or even 20 years ago may no longer be part of your life. Regularly reviewing this information guarantees that these assets benefit the individuals and charities most important to you now. P
4) Plug into treasury notes, t-bills, and bonds online
The U.S. Department of the Treasury continues to move toward paperless service. The U.S. Treasury stopped selling paper bonds on Dec. 31, 2011, and now issues them only electronically. Account statements and IRS forms are available only through an individual’s online “TreasuryDirect” account. Keep a list of these electronic bonds, treasury notes, and bills with your will to ensure that these assets are not forgotten.
5) Secure access to computers, smart phones, email, and social media
People of all ages regularly post photos to Facebook, network with colleagues on LinkedIn, or store countless files in “the cloud.” And nearly everyone has a computer, tablet, or smartphone. You may use passwords to protect these devices and online accounts, but without documentation, it will be difficult for family or friends to download treasured family photos, cancel social media accounts, or access files. Keep and regularly update a list now so these digital assets are not lost forever. (Bonus: It helps when you forget a password too!)