In this day and age, the nature of our assets is changing. Traditional estate planning tells us that we should have a will so that our real estate, bank accounts, and personal property will go to our children or other beneficiaries. However, as the age of computers progresses, so many of our assets are becoming digital and web-based. Physical photo album books are replaced with Facebook albums and cloud storage. Letters replaced by email. Cryptocurrency. Even bank accounts, investment accounts, stocks and retirement accounts can be set up and managed completely online.
What happens to these digital assets if you become ill, incapacitated, or upon your death? Does anyone else have access to your email, Facebook, or another online accounts? If not, do you have a record of your user names and passwords?
Fortune reports an unusual story: “The proprietor of QuadrigaCX, a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, died suddenly, taking knowledge of his business’ recovery keys to the netherworld with him. Apparently, nobody—including the owner’s widow—has access to the $190 million in virtual currencies his business secured.” While an extreme example, I have seen situations in which a surviving spouse struggled to get into the deceased spouse’s accounts to pay bills, access funds, and even get photos off of sites like Facebook and Google.
So how can estate planning help? One way to look at estate planning is to see that you are creating a road map for someone to follow. Providing your agent with a clear understanding of your property and assets is as important as directing how they should manage your affairs.
The other important aspect of estate planning is to provide your agent with easy access to your property so that they can manage your affairs without too much hassle or hoop jumping. Most online accounts, such as cryptocurrency, online stock accounts, etc., provide means of naming beneficiaries to receive the account upon the account owner’s death. Facebook provides the means of naming a “legacy contact”, a contact you nominate to look after your account upon death. Such a contact can create memorial posts, download and save photos and other posts or information, and notify Facebook contacts of your passing.
Start planning your estate and building your road map! Contact the office today to set up a consultation.
 Hackett, Robert. “Death Endangers Cryptocurrency Treasures: Plan Your Estate.” Fortune, February 2, 2019, http://fortune.com/2019/02/02/cryptocurrency-death-bitcoin-estate-planning/
Jessica Brandow is foremost an estate planning attorney dedicated to providing quality legal service to all types of clients.