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Protect Your Digital Legacy

Protect Your Digital Legacy

Digital legacy planning with Siegel Law Group.

Are you worried about your digital legacy? Don’t leave things to chance, let’s work together and start planning now.

Proper estate planning is important to ensure that last wishes, assets, and accounts are handled properly when you or a loved one passes on. The rise of the internet and social media in the last twenty years has created a new exigence for wills and trusts – handling the digital legacy of the deceased. Without usernames and passwords, it may not be possible to recover some digital assets or access online accounts. A recent, tragic story illustrates the reason why protecting your digital presence is so important.

Quadriga CX Founder Gerald Cotten

In February, 30-year-old Gerald Cotten passed away from complications due to Crohn’s Disease. Gerald was the CEO and Founder of Quadriga CX, a cryptocurrency exchange. He handled the company’s operations, including its $135 million dollars in cryptocurrency, mostly by himself. At the time of his death, he was the only with access to his password-protected laptop, and it is unlikely that the information and the digital assets will be recovered.

Gerald’s untimely death shows us many things about estate planning. First, it is important to have the right plans in place even if you are young, but especially if you are sick or a business owner. Second, including digital accounts, like laptop passwords, in those plans can save your loved one a lot of undue hardship. Gerald’s widow, Jennifer, has had to hire a private investigator and file court proceedings in order to recover Gerald’s assets from the laptop, and so far, she hasn’t had any success.

While you may not have a business or millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, your content is probably worth more than you think. Therefore, it is still a good idea to plan for your digital assets. For example, giving a trusted person access to your online bank account can help them access funds in their time of need. Also, supplying the password for your cell phone could provide the phone number to key contacts like family members.

Compile A List of Online Accounts

To start planning your digital legacy, start with writing down a list of all your accounts along with the usernames and passwords. Remember to include computer passwords, cell phone passwords, social media accounts, and other online accounts like utility bills. With e-billing and paperless invoices, some accounts are handled only online, so unless the bill comes in the mail, the executor of your will or fiduciary may never know that the account exists. It can be helpful to use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane, but remember to add all your accounts and leave the username and password for the password manager account. Since some passwords expire often, you should have a way to securely update all of this information as it changes.

Securely Store the Information

Once you put all those passwords in a secure place, give someone you can trust access to them. This person can be a professional advisor like an attorney, accountant, or financial advisor, or a loved one. Unfortunately, the law is still catching up to the many different online presences that we have. In 2016, a law was passed in Florida called “Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” that defines the circumstances in which an online account can be accessed after one’s death. Talking to an attorney can aid in navigating this process and the complex laws surrounding it.

Create a Plan

Finally, decide what you want to be done with your accounts. This can be an informal plan like written instructions, or it can be included in a will. You might specify that you want your email accounts deleted, or you can request someone download all your photos off of your Instagram page. Facebook allows users to create a memorial page. In order to do this, you need to first assign a legacy contact who can then administer the page, so friends and family can leave parting words or memories. If you have a business, you’ll need to give someone access to things like websites or merchant accounts.

Plan Your Digital Legacy with Siegel Law Group

Siegel Law Group understands the sensitive and personal issues that come up in estate planning. Let us give you a free consultation to discuss your estate, digital or otherwise. Call toll free at (855) FLA-ESTATE or local in Boca Raton at (561) 955-8515.

Barry represents beneficiaries and fiduciaries of estates and trusts regarding tax, and probate and trust law issues. He has authored or co-authored many articles on Estate Planning and Asset Protection strategies, including The Book of Estate Planning Strategies. He is a columnist for the Boca Raton Tribune, and he has been quoted in the South Florida Business Journal, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He’s been a guest on numerous television and radio shows; and he is currently writing a book on International Asset Protection.

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