Digital Legacy

How to Prepare for Your Digital Afterlife  “You post about your kids and pets. You tweet about your travels and work. You upload videos of your dog playing in the latest snowpocalypse.  Your social sites chronicle the ups and downs, the loves and losses, the adventures and even the boredoms of your life. So what happens to all those digital tidbits when you die?  On Thursday, Facebook announced that it’s allowing users to set up a ‘legacy contact’ — a family member or friend who can manage a person’s social account when they die.”

By |2016-12-13T20:33:26-08:00February 17th, 2015|

Man Leaves Esate to 2 Actors He Never Met

When you have no friends or family, who do you leave your estate to? Ray Fulk, a 71-year-old eccentric, died alone last summer. Having never been married, no children, and no close relatives or friends, Fulk left the bulk of his estate to 2 1980’s actors he never met, Kevin Brophy and Peter  Barton whom he considered “his friends.” Brophy and Barton will split roughly $1 million after Fulk’s 160 acres of farm land are sold.  He also left $5,000 to his favorite charity the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago.

Fulk’s friend and attorney, Donald Behle, explains:

“Behle had acted as Ray’s attorney in an earlier civil matter, so in December 1997, Ray approached him to draw up his will, including the bequest to Brophy and Barton. I have a copy of the will. In it, Ray refers to Brophy and Barton as ‘my friends.’. . .’I found a couple of letters he had written to them,’ says Behle. ‘They sent back responses that basically said thanks for writing and please watch me in whatever their next movie or show was.”

By |2013-03-23T10:31:06-07:00March 11th, 2013|

Frequent flier miles don’t have to die with you!

Your hard earned points from loyalty programs with hotels, airlines, and credit cards don’t have to go to waste after you die.  According to Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer magazine, U.S. travelers accumulate roughly 3 trillion frequent flyer miles each year.  If you don’t do anything with your points and rewards, the value then goes to waste.  By adding your rewards into your will, you are ensuring that all possible assets are identified and distributed based on your wishes. However, there may be some difficulty with security (regarding your accounts) and finding the loop holes in restrictions that certain companies place on their reward programs. For example:

“The Marriott Rewards program for Marriott International Inc hotel chain, only allows spouses or domestic partners to inherit points. American Express Co’s credit card rewards program requires a call from an executor before it agrees to send a package of required forms. Hilton HHonors points earned from Hilton Worldwide’s hotel brands expire after a year of inactivity.”

By |2013-03-08T09:39:18-08:00March 8th, 2013|

Include Your Digital Life In Your Estate Plan

Today it seems like nearly everyone has some digital presence.  Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Gmail, almost everyone has some digital assets.  When you start thinking about estate planning, you probably are thinking about the distribution of your assets: your home, car, business and other belongings.  But what about your digital assets?  NBC Chicago reports:

So many of the things you plan to leave behind after death are obvious: real estate, money, jewelry. But increasingly, a number of your assets that aren’t so obvious need to be addressed in planning: your digital assets.

“Your Facebook account, Twitter, that kind of stuff isn’t something you typically go talk to your lawyer about,” said financial writer Katie Hill.

Still, it’s an idea she recommends consumers take seriously.

Increasingly, a consumer’s digital assets, from online bank accounts to frequent flier and rewards program to social media, are becoming a consideration for estate planning.

“You do want someone to handle these accounts so they’re not floating around in cyberspace for the next 20 years,” said Hill.

Just as you name an executor for tangible assets, financial advisers say you need a digital executor, too; someone who can access your accounts after death. Websites offering that type of service are popping up, though many consumers still opt for the low-tech, hard copy option.

Giving someone the ability to access your personal information can make things a lot easier for your loved ones.  Imagine the headache of having to deal with every company where you had an account (Facebook, Gmail, etc.) and going through each company’s different process just to get a handle on the account.  This is why I suggest storing your passwords somewhere that can be accessed after you’re gone.  Read more about Including Passwords With Your Legacy.

By |2016-12-13T20:33:28-08:00July 11th, 2012|

Estate Planning For Your Digital Life

Email, Facebook, Twitter, and online banking have become as normal as breathing to most people.  But what happens to these things when a person dies?  The days of sorting through the deceased piles and piles of documents has ended.  Many people today are totally reliant on their digital lives, from preparing and filing tax returns, using banking software to balance a checkbook, to getting all of their bills delivered online or via email.   With things like encryption and passwords, how does someone access all of a person’s digital data after they die?  Wealth Strategies Journal reports:

Increasingly, our lives are conducted online. For many of us, the lion’s share of our correspondence takes place by email. Our bank, brokerage, credit card, and utilities statements are delivered by email. Recurring expenses are paid automatically from our accounts without any action on our parts; other bills are paid with a few clicks and keystrokes. We rarely write checks. Our photos are collected in virtual albums on our smartphones and on photo sharing websites, rather than in the plastic sleeves of tangible albums on our bookshelves. Our address books are maintained on our smartphones. We file our taxes electronically; we may not even keep hard copies of our returns.

The more tech-savvy among us may even have e-commerce businesses, own the rights to valuable domain names, and write potentially lucrative blogs.

Whether an individual’s online activities have independent financial value or are merely the means of accessing hard assets of financial value, this phenomenon has far-reaching implications for estate planning and administration.

When someone dies, an administrative process starts into motion. Information must be gathered: Was there a will? Were there any outstanding debts? What kind of assets did the decedent own, where are they, and what are they worth? Are there ongoing costs associated with maintaining the assets? Where can the beneficiaries be reached? Will there be any tax due?

The traditional approach for handling an estate administration involved sorting through paper files in the decedent’s home and office and waiting for the postman to bring the mail. The bank and brokerage statements would arrive in due course, and we would know what the assets are. The bills would arrive in due course, and we would know what the debts and carrying costs are. Eventually, the missing pieces were filled in and the picture became clear.

In today’s world, this traditional approach is simply no longer adequate.

By |2017-10-07T11:15:26-07:00June 21st, 2012|

Have A Plan For Physcial And Digital Assets

9News:  “Some elements of planning out your estate are obvious, others not so much.

Increasingly your digital assets, everything from online bank accounts to frequent flier and rewards programs to social media are becoming a consideration for estate planning.

Financial writer Catey Hill suggests designating a “digital executor” to handle wrapping up your online life.”

By |2017-10-07T11:14:47-07:00May 30th, 2012|

Including Passwords With Your Legacy

Question:  I know I should leave the passwords for my computer / files / email / social media with my estate plan.  What is the best way to do this?

Answer:  Store a list of your important passwords somewhere safe that isn’t on your computer.

More and more people are using their computers to store their important, personal information.  For example, if you use financial accounting software, it may be next to impossible to settle your estate without being able to access that information.  However, because of the sensitive nature of this information, you may have your files computer password protected.  Also, things like your social media accounts and your email may need to be accessed after your death.  Sure, your family can spend hundreds of dollars to hire an expert to decrypt your information, but the better solution is to leave your passwords somewhere that your loved ones will find.

The goal is to keep your passwords secure during your life, but readily accessible after that.  Here are some options we suggest:

  • Put a list of all of your passwords and accounts in your estate planning portfolio.  When you keep everything together in one central location, it makes it much easier for your loved ones to follow your instructions and wishes.
  • Put a list of your passwords and accounts in your safe deposit box.  If you don’t have one, ask the lawyer to drafted your Will to store it with your client file.
  • Tell your personal representative or spouse about your passwords and accounts.
  • Don’t include your password in the text of your Will.  You may have to change your password, which would then require you to amend your Will.  Also, when your Will is entered into probate it becomes a public record.  You don’t want your passwords to be public record.
  • Avoiding the issue by using an obvious password is not a good idea.  Even though it might be obvious to you, it may not be obvious to your loved ones.  An example of an obvious password with be your pet’s name, your children’s name or birthdate, or your name or birthdate.
  • Don’t store your password list on your computer.  If your computer is password protected, your loved ones won’t be able to access the list.
By |2016-12-13T20:33:29-08:00May 23rd, 2012|

How Do I Get Email Access To A Loved One’s Account After Death?

Question:  I want to access the email account for my deceased loved one.  How do I do this?

Answer:  In many cases, you can contact the email provider and provide them some information demonstrating that you should have access to the account.

During the difficult time after a loved one passes, it is easy to forget about some of the small things, like accessing your loved one’s email account.  In a perfect world, your loved one would have left their email information and password in a safe place for you to find, perhaps even with their estate plan.  However, people often overlook small details like these when preparing their estate plan.

If you cannot locate your loved one’s email password, you can likely gain access by contacting the email provider.  The email provider is whoever is listed after the @ symbol in the email address.  Most email providers will turn over email account information to the deceased’s next of kin with sufficient proof.

  • Google’s Gmail requests a death certificate, a document giving you power of attorney over the person’s affairs and the full header of an email sent to you by the deceased’s account.  You will also have to provide your name, address, email address and a copy of your photo identification as well as the deceased’s email address.  For more information see:
  • Microsoft’s Hotmail also requires a death certificate, a document giving your power of attorney or showing that you are the personal representative (executor) of the deceased’s estate.  You will also need to provide the deceased’s email address, first and last name, date of birth, the city, state and zip the person gave when they created the account, approximately when the account was created and last accessed, and your shipping address.  Hotmail will mail you a DVD with all of the contacts and emails stored in the account.  For more information see:
  • Yahoo won’t grant access to anyone without a court order.  So, if your loved one uses a Yahoo account, they must leave their password or you will not be able to access their account without a court order.
By |2016-12-13T20:33:29-08:00May 23rd, 2012|
Go to Top