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Florida residents, does your estate plan include digital assets?

West Palm Beach residents are becoming more and more accustomed to conducting personal and business interactions electronically. From social media to electronic bank accounts, individuals may not even realize just how much they utilize electronic services. What's more, people may not be properly accounting for their electronic information when they are estate planning, which can have drastic consequences.

In today's society, Florida residents have a wide variety of digital assets, from things like online bank and brokerage accounts to social media accounts. Yet, many people fail to properly account for these intangible assets in their estate plans, and that can ultimately cause losses to beneficiaries.

For instance, without essential login information to access an online bank account, beneficiaries may need to hire a computer-forensics expert or obtain a court order to gain access. Some beneficiaries may even be precluded altogether from accessing such accounts.

In addition, the increased use of automated bill payments may pose problems for beneficiaries if they cannot access the account and cancel the services. With such important information online, it is highly advisable that individuals take inventory of their digital information when creating an estate plan, as well as provide their beneficiaries with access to this much-needed information. For instance, people should create a list of online services with corresponding login information.

Moreover, the unique nature of digital assets needs to be stored in a different way than other information. For example, unlike storing other important items, people should not use a safe-deposit box to keep track of passwords and sensitive digital information because many banks do not allow access to such boxes until a will is probated. Instead, it is suggested that people place password information in a locked home safe or perhaps with an online password storing service.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "With Estate Planning, Don't Forget Virtual Assets," Tania Karas, July 28, 2012

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