Most estate plans were drafted and designed in the analog paper days and as you or your loved ones embrace technology and new ways to communicate such as email and online banking your legal plan should also evolve. At DANA and Associates we are excited to be able to offer estate plans that are current with our paperless world of email, online storage and online banking. Even if you still manage to operate an analog life your children and future beneficiaries probably use the email or the internet and will appreciate the ease of technology to administer your estate.
Step 1 Inventory Your Accounts
When we meet with you for your personal family legal session we will send you a fact finder so that you can complete an inventory listing the real estate that you own as well as retirement accounts and bank accounts. This information is crucial so we can identify your needs and help you design a plan to protect your loved ones. When I meet with families after the loss of a loved one for a Family Administration Session we also start by compiling an inventory of all the real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts along with the bills and debts of the deceased. As you can imagine, this process can be a lot more difficult to figure out when the deceased is not here to tell us about all the different bank accounts and assets that they own. When the children or persons assigned to administer the estate start searching for records how will they find things if there is no physical paper trail? This process sometimes takes several months to figure out and can be very frustrating. Sometimes new accounts are discovered years after the administration has been completed. Compile a financial statement that lists all of the current assets and liabilities. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you can write down all of the accounts or simply place one bank statement for each account with your estate planning documents. The single biggest difference between an “easy” and more expensive and more difficult administration is having access to information.
Step 2 Update Your Plan
With new laws, we can now offer new solutions. The revised uniform fiduciary access to digital assets act, which was enacted by Arizona in August of 2016, allows you to control what happens to the digital information that is stored for you. Even if you are living a 100% analog life your banks and financial institutions are keeping their records about your accounts electronically and those electronic records are your digital assets. Everyone has digital assets!
With a paperless plan from DANA and Associates the people administering your estate (Trustee for assets in Trust or Personal Representative in your Last Will and Testament or Agent in your Durable Power of attorney) will have a LIMITED power to request an inventory of your financial records. Limited is the key word, if the request over your digital assets is too broad or too intrusive then it will not be followed or will require a court order and the goal is to simplify and stay out of court.
Step 3 Create a Digital Asset Trust (DAT)
The Digital Asset Trust (DAT) is a place where you can make more specific requests on how your digital assets are managed. At a minimum, we want the people administering your estate to be able to figure out where you have accounts and what bills you have but not have unlimited access to your other private communications. Presently, the DAT is used by most to make only this limited request over email accounts. If you want to share more content with your beneficiaries the DAT allows for that. I have seen parents who have created an email account that they use to send messages and information to their young children, a DAT can help you transfer this information to your child in the future. It can also be used to direct content that is stored on Youtube and other platforms. Many social media accounts like facebook have an “online tool” or a way that allows you to plan for the account, in facebook it is the legacy settings check it out (maybe we could have a link to facebook here). In the absence of an online tool to plan for your content a DAT can be used to direct your digital life.
Check out the video below which shows how a DAT can protect your family
While many people are comfortable sharing their passwords as a professional I cannot recommend this practice for several reasons:
- Privacy – It is unnecessary to give unlimited access. The administrators only need access to your financial dealings and not into your personal dealings.
- Passwords change some institutions require you to change your passwords frequently so keeping an updated list can be quite the chore.
- Violates the terms of service agreement – The terms of service agreement is the contract that you clicked to agree to all the terms and it is a contract. Most email accounts are single user license agreements and by sharing the password you are probably in violation of the agreement.
- Even if you have the permission you could face liability for accessing the account and therefore I cannot advise you to follow this practice.
For a real solution to your digital life contact DANA and Associates to schedule your Personal Family Legal Session.