Next Gen Estate Planning

Estate planning is a tricky thing, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.  Witnessing it with my dad and his father puts the importance of it further into focus.  It seems like most people just don’t grasp the urgency of it.   We often hear things like “I don’t have enough money to worry about that.” or the famous “I’ll plan after I retire.” and sentiments like that often lead to troubles for loved ones or last-minute scrambling.  We could honestly spend countless newsletters going over estate planning, but we don’t want to inundate you.  So, we have elected to look at a relatively new part of estate planning, and one that is probably being overlooked.

Technological advances have generally made our lives easier. Direct deposit, online banking, auto payments and other improvements have allowed increased control over our finances but, it could provide our fiduciaries a tougher time.  Issues can arise if instructions aren’t left granting access to your accounts or digital assets.  It is best to put provisions in your will, living trust and or durable power of attorney allowing service providers to disclose account information and contents to your fiduciary.  

Unfortunately, this issue is so new even those precautions might not help.  Service agreements might limit or deny the ability to manage, distribute, copy, delete, or even close accounts. Further, "unauthorized use" laws can lead to legal issues for your representatives if they are deemed to have exceeded permissible access levels.†  Thankfully these issues are starting to come to light and lawmakers are attempting to clarify the gray area.  A new statute, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), addresses whether and how a family member, executor, attorney-in-fact, or trustee can access digital assets.†  At this time, it has only been adopted in 16 states and PA isn’t one yet.  One last thing to consider; make sure to keep a detailed record of your digital assets and somewhere it is readily accessible.   Without it your fiduciary might not be able to access your accounts to pay your bills, or keep track of those being automatically debited.  A locked up hard copy is a good thing to have as just as above, your fiduciary might not be able to access it digitally.

So, while your digital assets might not be the bulk of your estate planning it is something that is continuing to become a bigger and bigger part of our lives and thusly a bigger part of our estates.