Contact Our Walworth County Estate Planning Attorney

Contact Our Walworth County Estate Planning Attorney

walworth county digital estate planning assets

Are you addressing your digital assets when planning your Walworth County estate? Digital assets do not solely affect younger generations, they affect all generations. Now that our digital world involves social media, emails, online investing, cloud storage, and more, you must address what will happen to your digital assets after your death.

walworth county digital estate planning assets

What Are The Various Types of Digital Assets?

In general, digital assets consist of any type of information stored online, in the cloud, or on a person’s computer, phone, or server. Samples of digital assets are: emails (Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail), online investing information (E*Trade), online financial information, online bank accounts, online bill payment accounts (PayPal), social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), online photos, online videos, blogs, websites, domain names, online video game accounts, avatars, medical and prescription information (Patient Portals, Walgreens), all files storage on your computer, your smartphone data (address book, contacts, photos), etc. Some people may have digital assets with a monetary value, such as online businesses, photographers, authors, etc. Your digital property and memories will be lost if family members are unable to retrieve and access your data.

Why Must I Protect and Plan for My Walworth County Digital Estate?

Traditionally, financial information and bills are sorted at the deceased’s estate. In today’s day and age, many people pay bills online, through the creditor website or through their bank’s online bill pay program. With so many companies going paperless, all of your estate assets and debts may be inaccessible strictly through a paper trail.

If you have a social media profile, such as on Facebook, what will happen to your profile? You must leave specific instructions and login information for family if you want a say in what happens to your Facebook profile. If you do nothing, family may argue about whether to leave your page as a memorial or to delete it. There may be strong feelings attached to these options. If no one has your login information after your death, your family must contact Facebook to have your profile either removed or memorialized. Which would you prefer? Which would your family prefer?

Lastly, many states do not have laws enacted to protect digital assets after your death. Who will own this information? Your photos, videos, and family recipes are at risk. Is the information transferable?

The fact is that Wisconsin is not keeping up with how digital assets are handled in an estate after a death. This will create stress, arguments, confusion, and possible extra expenses for your living family. Your first step is to prepare a list of all your digital assets and login information. Contact our Walworth County estate planning attorney to ensure the Personal Representative of your Last Will & Testament is given the proper information and instructions to manage your digital assets. You can contact our Walworth County estate planning attorney via phone at 262-725-0175 and via email on our website’s contact page. Wynn at Law, LLC has estate planning offices located in Delavan, Salem, Lake Geneva, and Muskego.

Wills must include a digital legacy, says solicitor…

Wills must include a digital legacy, says solicitor…

A ‘digital legacy’ should be an integral part of the instructions within a Will, says Natalie Smith, an associate in the private client team at law firm Lodders.

“The use of social media, cloud storage, online banking accounts, emails and an array of digital platforms and accounts, continues to grow,” says Natalie, a specialist in writing Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, probate and tax planning, and a fully qualified member of STEP, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

“Whilst we are creating personal digital assets at a record pace, the laws governing them have not developed alongside, and it remains unclear where the notion of digital assets fits among other traditional concepts of property, especially when it comes to a Will. Nor is there any UK case law to shape what happens to someone’s ‘digital estate’ and its contents after they die.

“It is vital that people ensure their Wills include information for executors specifically about their digital, online presence, and this is something that must be seen as of equal importance as a life insurance policy or other investment.”

According to recent figures from Ofcom, 72% of adult internet users have a social media profile. Facebook has 31 million (60% of the population) users in the UK, Instagram has 14 million active users each month, whilst globally Twitter has 320 million active users each month.

“Our possessions are becoming more digitised, which is creating a new category of personal property – a digital asset,” says Natalie. “From social media profiles to online bank accounts, a digital life is likely to survive a lot longer than any of us.

“A digital asset is anything you may own, or have rights to, that exists either online or on hard storage devices. This includes email, social networking, iTunes, cloud storage and financial accounts, as well as hard storage devices such as computers, laptops, USB’s, smart phones and any external storage drives which are locked by way of encryption.

“Whilst UK case law surrounding the transfer of all digital assets is non-existent, there are various US cases and legislative developments that have addressed this issue,” says Natalie. “Whilst not based on UK statute, this is relevant as most contracts between online account holders and internet service providers are governed by US law as the majority of providers are US companies.”

Natalie says a good starting point is to consider which parts of a digital estate you wish to be passed on and who you wish to have access to them – many would not want every member of family to be able to pick through their private emails. Then consider a safe place to keep details for these accounts so they cannot be accessed by anyone until these are needed by executors.

The ‘digital assets inventory’ should include: email accounts and their login and password details, social media accounts, websites owned or with which accounts are held, cloud storage services, frequent flyer miles, songs and videos, and medical records online.

“The Law Society recommends a personal assets log,” Natalie explains, “to include social media and other online accounts, so that executors can access and close all online and social media accounts when their owner dies, as well as retrieve photos and other items of personal or sentimental value.

“Also, be sure to take inventory of all the digital devices you own. In terms of financial accounts, take inventory of banking, stock trading, credit card, and shopping accounts. Any service used and which involves online financial transactions should be included.”

A number of ‘digital legacy’ companies have recently been set-up, but Natalie says these should be considered with caution: “Storing vast amounts of private and secure information in one place online is an incredibly insecure method of passing on digital assets – if this one password is compromised, a hacker would have access to your entire digital estate.”

The STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) Digital Assets Working Group (DAWG), a sub committee of the STEP Mental Capacity Special Interest Group, is currently working on guidance on how private client solicitors should deal with digital assets on death and loss of capacity, and is liaising with the Law Society of England & Wales.

Lodders Solicitors is an established and thriving law firm based in Stratford upon Avon, Henley in Arden and Cheltenham. The firm is recognised as a leading private client law firm, offering specialist advice to both private individuals and privately owned businesses, including its highly regarded work in the agricultural and real estate sectors. For more information: www.lodders.co.uk.

McBride: What happens to your digital estate when you’re gone?

McBride: What happens to your digital estate when you’re gone?

What happens to your Facebook profile after you die? Will your executor have access to your email account or your photo collection in cloud storage? What about your e-books and iTunes collection? If you don’t know, you need to make a digital estate plan, writes Terry McBride.
What happens to your Facebook profile after you die? Will your executor have access to your email account or your photo collection in cloud storage? What about your e-books and iTunes collection? If you don’t know, you need to make a digital estate plan, writes Terry McBride.

What happens to your Facebook profile after you die? Will your executor have access to your email account or your photo collection in cloud storage? What about your e-books and iTunes collection?

If you don’t know, you need to make a digital estate plan.

Unfortunately, the infrastructure of the digital world creates barriers for families and executors seeking access to the online accounts after someone dies.

Lawyer Karl Martens of Robertson Stromberg, addressed these issues when he spoke to the Estate Planning Council of Saskatoon. He said that Canadian legislation lags behind technological change. Privacy laws, in particular, make it difficult for your executor to take over your online accounts.

When you sign up for an online account, the terms of service agreement normally restricts access to the account-holder only.

In the US, 19 states have created laws to protect people’s digital assets and to give the deceased person’s family the right to access and manage online accounts. No similar laws have been enacted in Canada yet.

Inventory digital assets

For your digital estate plan, make a letter of direction that has an inventory of your digital property, especially when there is financial or sentimental value. Your inventory should include desktop computers, smartphones, online banking, photo sharing accounts, blogs, Facebook profile, LinkedIn profile, cloud storage, gaming accounts and utility accounts that you manage online.

Once you have catalogued all of your digital assets, hardware devices and online services that you use, you should tell your executor what you wish to have happen to them after your death.

Record usernames and passwords (off-line or in a secure manner) so your executor can easily gain access to your devices and online accounts.

Service providers may not issue hard copies of bills and statements to an executor who does not know the proper log-in details.

You will need to keep your estate letter of direction in a secure but accessible location — in a locked file cabinet or with your lawyer, for example. Keep it up to date. Then, make sure that your executor knows the location of your letter of direction.

Don’t include any digital access information in your will because a probated will becomes a public document.

Social media

Someone in your immediate family or your executor will have to decide whether to delete your social media profile entirely or become the trusted “legacy contact” who sets up and manages a memorial site. Your executor will need to review the terms of service agreements to see who owns the content.

Specify whether you would like photos, email messages and other documents archived and transferred to family members, friends or business colleagues. Should some accounts be deleted or erased?

iTunes and e-Books

There are some digital assets that you cannot legally bequeath to anyone. You pay for a personal licence to use digital files, such as iTunes music files or e-books, but you have no right to resell or give away your licence.

Online business

Do you have a blog or YouTube videos that will continue to generate advertising revenue after you die? Are you selling items through an online store? You need to authorize a “digital executor” to take control of your online business after you are gone.

Credit card rewards points, Bitcoins, digital wallets, domain name registrations can have significant financial value that needs to be safeguarded until they are either transferred to beneficiaries or sold.

As we increasingly use electronic devices and email, much of our financial correspondence is digital — and not recorded anywhere else. Your executor will need that information to settle your estate.

Controlling your digital legacy

The Digital Legacy Conundrum: Who Really Owns What?

Previously the distribution of assets following the death of loved one was straightforward. These days however, a lot of the “property” of a deceased and many relevant documents might be only contained on a hard drive, in an e-mail account or in some form of cloud storage. A number of problems can arise when executors attempt to source, access and/or retrieve these “digital assets” left behind by the deceased and many, if not most people do not have a clear or accurate understanding of the extent of their digital estate. Moreover, the many sites where digital assets are located have differing protocols regarding the access that will be granted to executors and Unauthorised access and privacy laws may put executors and trusts and estates lawyers at risk of violating one set of laws (often those of the United States, where many of the social networking and online storage accounts are based), merely for attempting to carry out the duties required of them under another set of laws.