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Planning for Your Digital Estate

Digital filing systemGiven the fact that our lives are increasingly digital, regardless of our age, and that the products of our digital lives have both sentimental and financial value, the question arises, “Shouldn’t you have a plan for your digital estate too"?

Not every aspect of an estate can be addressed quickly, even six months after a death. This includes answers to questions such as how to handle the files on the decedent’s computer or the stuff on his smartphone. Social media accounts may also still be up and running.

Many people who think they've X’ed all of the right boxes on their estate-planning to-do lists, may have overlooked the proper management and orderly transfer of their digital assets after they die or become disabled. Digital estate planning includes all of your digital possessions, such as computers and smartphones, stored data (on your devices or in the cloud), and online accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn. You should include your digital assets in your estate plan. You should state who should get the data and if there are things you don't want others to have. Here are some first steps:

First, conduct an inventory of all of your digital assets. This will jog your memory about which digital assets you deem important. Consider the following questions:

  • What valuable items would you lose, if your PC or other device was lost or stolen?
  • If you’re in an accident, would your family be able to access your significant digital information?
  • If you died today, to what digital property would you like your loved ones to have access?

Next, add user names and passwords to that inventory. Your digital inventory may include digital devices, data-storage devices or media, electronically stored data, social media accounts, domain names and intellectual property in electronic format. Keep this document safe.  You can download an inventory sheet from our website if you'd like.

You may want to keep an electronic list of digital property and passwords, protected with strong encryption and a strong password and backed up to the cloud (not on your computer and smartphone). Create a master password for the electronic list, store the password in a safe deposit box or home safe and give your fiduciary instructions on accessing it.  Remember to back up all your data.

Finally, formalize your digital estate plan. You should designate a digital executor—someone who can ensure that your digital assets are managed or disposed of in accordance with your wishes after you pass away. Depending on the type of property, the fiduciary may also need special powers and authorizations to deal with specific assets.  You should also mention specific digital assets in your will.

Reference: Morningstar (December 15, 2017) “Do You Have a Plan for Your Digital 'Estate'?”

 

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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
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  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
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Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Coronavirus/Covid-19
Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.