Accessing Digital Assets – Portland, Oregon

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The estate planning attorneys with Nay & Friedenberg discuss digital asset information organization.

Deposit a check by photographing it with your phone and emailing the photo to your bank?  Pay for your groceries with a credit card built in to an app on your phone?  Keep your records in the ‘cloud’?  All this is already happening and more will follow!  It is very liberating – no trips to the bank, no plastic cards to scratch or lose – but it highlights how much personal information is on the computer and on the web.  This in turn makes us worry about security.  We can’t just lock it up behind closed doors.

We are bombarded with facts about identity theft.  So we take ever-complicated steps to secure our passwords, account numbers and virtual depositories.  This is good.

But what happens when we become very ill, incompetent or pass away?  All that security becomes a roadblock, or a maze, for our loved ones. Not having information memorialized on paper or plastic creates the serious possibility of losing assets. It can mean the late payment of bills with penalties, or the loss of insurance because of a missed premium. Our loved ones may be stranded without vital information and our estates may be smaller.

In response, as estate planners, we are now advising our clients to complete a ‘digital asset information’ worksheet. It’s a list where all your digital information is centralized. It is in old-fashioned hard copy and given to your power of attorney, trustee, executor, etc.

This information would include:

  • Computer user names and passwords.
  • Email accounts, user names and passwords.
  • Financial account web-addresses, user names and passwords.
  • Merchant account web-addresses, user names and passwords.
  • Social networking sites and passwords.
  • Domain names, hosting services, user names and addresses.
  • Names of benefit accounts such as airline miles, account number, and password.

Making that information available to your surrogate decision-maker will be useful for the seamless management of one’s financial life.   It is the modern equivalent of adding your trusted child to your safe deposit box.  It will also allow him/her to close unnecessary accounts which may be mined for identity theft.

An alternative that is gaining ground is a website where this information will be stored for the client.  There are a number of commercial services that are untested.  To find out more about them, Google ‘online storage’.

Of course, an obvious disadvantage of the digital asset worksheet occurs if it falls into the wrong hands.  All that information in one place could wreak havoc.  Even if it were to be lost, and not obviously in the wrong hands, it could create a lot of sleepless nights.  There is no answer to this dilemma.  The information has to be available and there is some risk.  This can be mitigated if kept separate from other financial information or if placed in a safe deposit box.

Finally, as our cameras, phones, MP3 players, etc., become more sophisticated, be sure to back them up and to place the access information with your digital asset worksheet.  The goal is to make things easier for our loved ones.

An experienced estate planning attorney makes all the difference in making sure you have a proper inheritance plan for your family’s needs. Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg in Portland, Oregon at (503) 245-0894 to set an appointment.