How to Start a Digital Estate Plan: A Guide from a Hook Law Center Estate Planning Attorney
Virginia Beach, VA (Law Firm Newswire) May 8, 2014 – It is increasingly important for comprehensive estate plans to account for assets managed online.
“Traditionally, when someone died without a comprehensive estate plan in place, heirs could use paper records to piece everything together,” said Andrew Hook, a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney. “But now, that is not always the case. Many people are opting to manage checking accounts, retirement accounts and investment accounts online. If those assets are not properly documented, it may be difficult for rightful heirs to gain access to them or even to become aware of their existence.”
Hook recommends consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure all assets are accounted for in a will or trust. But he also gave some simple steps that individuals can take to get started on their own.
When compiling sensitive information, be sure to protect it. Hook suggests physically hiding a USB flash drive, password-protecting the relevant drive and document or, preferably, both.
Identify assets. Include every account in which there are assets, regardless of whether there are current paper records – this may be changed in the future.
Gather access information. For financial accounts, access information includes websites, login IDs and passwords. Record an explanation of the locations of physical assets.
Understand transfer policies. Some companies facilitate the transfer of assets' ownership to heirs better than others. Inquire about these policies, and if they are of concern, consider moving funds elsewhere. If the company allows named beneficiaries for individual accounts, take advantage of the option. It significantly reduces hassle.
Decide whether if anything needs to be destroyed. Perhaps there is private correspondence or diaries on a computer that should remain confidential until after death. If so, specify this in a will or trust what data is to be destroyed.
Spread the word. Tell a few key individuals – perhaps a spouse, children, executor or attorney – where to find personal digital estate plans and the password.
Keep it updated. When a new account is opened or a password is changed, update access information and records accordingly.
Hook Law Center
295 Bendix Road, Suite 170
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452-1294
5806 Harbour View Blvd.
Suffolk VA 23435