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Why an estate plan should include a digital inventory

Those individuals who have taken the time to create a comprehensive estate plan that accounts for the entirety of their assets and accurately reflects all of their wishes are to be commended for their diligence and their determination.

However, even though they may have determined how their property is to be divided among their children, how much is going to a favored charity, who will serve as their guardian in the event of their incapacity, and even how they want doctors to proceed with medical treatment, experts indicate its possible they may have inadvertently omitted one very important detail: an inventory of their digital assets.

While failing to take this step might not seem like a major oversight, experts indicate that it can actually serve to create very big problems for executors and heirs alike.

By way of example, consider that a surviving spouse might prove unable to take the simple step of paying monthly bills in the wake of your passing or that an executor who is unable to view retirement account information online might have to wait for a copy of death certificate before being granted access.

What then should people do to ensure that they've completed a proper inventory of their digital assets?

According to experts, an inventory of digital assets may consist of the following:

  • A list of all websites where online financial accounts are held along with user names, passwords, answers to security questions and all other pertinent information.
  • A list of all email and social media accounts along with user names, passwords, answers to security questions and instructions for how the account should be handled (deleted upon death, transformed into online memorial, etc.).
  • A list of all places where things of both sentimental value (pictures, films, writings, etc.) and monetary value (digital music, movies, books and other media) can be found along with user names, passwords, and answers to security questions.
  • A list of all devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) along with user names, passwords, and answers to security questions.

Once completed, experts indicate that the digital inventory can be shared with such trusted individuals as estate planning attorneys or financial advisors who can ensure its safekeeping. However, they also indicate that it's incumbent upon a person to 1) make the necessary updates to their digital inventory, and 2) inform their friends or family members as to its location.  

To learn more about estate planning options, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who will take the time to answer your questions and explain the law. 

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