Thinking about retirement? Don’t forget about your tech.

Thinking about retirement? Don’t forget about your tech.

Thinking about retirement? Don’t forget about your tech.

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technology and retirees, boss magazine

By Anne-Frances Hutchinson

Here’s an open secret about Americans on the cusp of retirement age: They know how to use technology. Having been in the workforce as the digital age gestated from a fever dream into the driver of nearly every aspect of work and life in the developed world, this cohort understands its transformative power at a level digital natives have yet to grasp. Over the next decade, roughly 132 million Americans 50 and older will spend over $84 billion annually on technology.

As they approach retirement, affluent, well educated seniors are still driving technological development, participating in the digital economy as it grows and changes, and preparing for an aging process that will be largely dependent on emerging technologies to increase satisfaction, comfort, and life expectancy.

However, one of the profound changes retirement brings is access to technology. Leaving the workplace can mean losing a wealth of expensive support, from high speed internet connections and the software programs that allow seamless communication, to hardware that can be impossible to afford on a budget. And yes, that includes the person in IT who knows how to convert documents into PDFs. (Here’s another deeply held secret from a boomer: They absolutely know how to do that. They just love to see your reaction when they ask for your help. Eyerolls are always funny.)

technology and retirees, boss magazine

Teasing aside, here are five critical considerations to make before transitioning out of the tech rich workplace.

  1. Make cyber security a priority. The loss of a workplace IT infrastructure means heightened exposure to hacking, so deepening your personal knowledge about security breaches and investing in affordable, personal use security tools is a must. Don’t be put off by any implied condescension you might perceive by seeking simplified help – Internet is a great place to start the process.
  2. Forget about remembering passwords. Leaving the office shouldn’t mean swapping strong protection of digital assets for passwords that are easy to remember and a breeze for hackers to exploit. Encrypted password managers such as 1Password provide affordable protection, generous storage, and email support.
  3. Enroll in autopay. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean the bills stop. Making sure they get paid automatically, on time, every month will take a huge weight off your shoulders. On the flip side, any income you have still have coming in: social security, a pension, etc., you can arrange to be automatically deposited in the account of your choosing. Being retired means you should be out there enjoying life, not spending several hours a week doing amateur accounting.
  4. Set up online trading. You want your money to last through a long retirement. Now that you have more time, you might want to take a more hands-on approach to your investments. Services such as Ally Invest and E-Trade make it simple and easy to manage your portfolio and do self-directed trades on a daily basis.
  5. Compromise smartly. The temptation to sacrifice capability for cost can be very compelling, especially when it comes to smartphones. While there is a fun new crop of flip phones hitting the market that may take you back to the simpler days of flip up and gab, like the updated foldable Motorola Razr, prioritize the features that are most important to you — whether it’s a great camera, the ability to use multiple apps, or mil-std ruggedization — and make sure the phone of your choice makes the grade. You’ll want something that can still keep up with your lifestyle and let you video chat with the grandkids.
  6. Think before you ditch. Switching away from a “does it all” desktop system to a tablet or laptop may make sense from a portability standpoint, but be sure your computer investments match the quality of life you’re expecting. Desktops can be much cheaper to buy than laptops, giving you the freedom to buy both. Desktop performance is better, more flexible, and far more robust than tablets; laptops that offer equivalent desktop performance are typically cumbersome and heavy despite being optimized for mobility. If you’re a gamer, crafter, or have a penchant for art, having a desktop in your post-work tech arsenal will be a very worthwhile spend.
  7. Plan your digital estate. You’re planning to leave your work environment, not your entire life, but now is the time to think about what may happen to your digital identity and it’s a risky aspect of estate planning to neglect. In the Digital Cheat Sheet, Everplans recommends the following steps to take:
  • Make a list of all your digital assets and make a plan on how they should be accessed after your passing. This includes your personal data, passwords, and hardware.
  • Choose an executor for these assets who will follow your wishes on erasing, preserving, or sharing data, and with whom you want your digital legacy to be shared.
  • Store this information where it can be readily accessed by a trusted family member, attorney, or your appointed executor.
  • Legalize your wishes. With the exception of Louisiana, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia, there are state provisions for digital asset legalization. Work with your estate planner to incorporate your digital assets into your will. Remember: Never include passwords or private data in your will, as it is a public document that anyone can access.
technology and retirees, boss magazine

Retirement isn’t the end of your life, it’s the beginning of enjoying what you’ve worked so hard for. Set yourself up for success much the same way you did in your career. There’s a whole world of things to do that you might have missed out on. A smart retirement will enable you to make the most of your time while living on the go. Get after it!

Sorting out social media and online accounts

Sorting out social media and online accounts

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Most people have lots of social media and online accounts. The things that they contain (eg photos, statuses, messages) are sometimes called digital assets. It can be helpful to think about what you want to happen to these accounts and their contents after you’ve died. You can put plans in place to make things easier for your family members and friends to carry out your wishes.

If you’re not sure how to manage your online accounts, you might like to ask a family member or friend to help you.

On this page:

Decide what to do with each account

For each account that you use online, there will be different options for what you can do. To find out what these are, go to each account and look at the settings, options or terms of service.

You might be able to do different things, such as:

  • Memorialise a social media account, so that your timeline and pictures can be seen by friends, but no one can make changes to it.
  • Download a copy of your data (photos, videos and messages) and keep in a secure place.
  • Deactivate an account so that it isn’t publicly available. In some cases, the information stored with the company may still be accessible should soemone need to access it in the future.
  • Delete an account so that the account and its contents aren’t available to anyone publicly or privately. If you delete an account, all of the information may be permanently deleted.

You might want to think about things like whether you want your friends and family to be able to look at your social media photos or things you’ve posted or whether there are important documents saved in your email folders that people will need access to. You may also want to think about whether there is information on your accounts that you don’t want family or friends to be able to access.

It’s also possible to leave messages or notifications for friends and family after you’ve died. The website MyWishes has more information about this.

Put plans in place for your accounts

Companies have different rules about what happens to your account when you die and whether someone else can have access. It’s a good idea to look at your options for each account and decide what you want to do with it.

You could write down your account details and passwords and leave these with someone you trust. Check with each account before giving someone else your password – someone else may not be able to legally access your account, according to the terms and conditions of the company. Some services allow you to assign someone you trust to have access to some or parts of your account after you die and when your account becomes inactive. You need to check with each company if they provide this option.

You could leave written instructions about what you want to happen with your online accounts. This document is sometimes called a social media Will. It’s different to a normal Will. The Digital Legacy Association has a template that you can use to make a social media Will.

You could choose someone to manage your accounts. The person you ask to do this is sometimes called a ‘social media executor’ or ‘digital executor’. You might choose a friend, family member or your solicitor. You may want to leave instructions about your social media and online accounts in a separate letter rather than in the formal Will. This is because after your death, the Will and its contents may become public information so any login details could be seen by others.

It is possible to add your preferences for your social media accounts to your main Will, which is a legal document. But sometimes the terms of service for the company mean that what you’ve requested to happen isn’t possible. It’s best to check what your options are with each individual company. These might change, which means you’d need to update your Will.

If you’re not sure what to include in your Will, you can ask a solicitor. You can find a solicitor on the Law Society’s websites – see below. You might want to ask whether they are accredited under the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme Protocol (WIQS), as this means that they follow best practice procedures.

What happens to my online banking?

Bank accounts are counted as part of your estate (money, possessions and property). This means that your bank accounts will be managed by the executors of your Will. You don’t need to change your online banking. After you’ve died, your family, friends, or executors of your will need to tell your bank. You may wish to keep an updated list of your online bank accounts in a secure place with your Will so that your executors know which banks to contact after you have died. It may be helpful to keep a paper version to make it easier for your executors to access. Sharing details of your bank accounts may be especially important for ‘online only’ bank accounts and bank accounts that don’t provide regular printed statements.

Check with your bank before giving someone else the log in details for your online banking. If you give someone else the details and the account is accessed without your permission, the bank may refuse to compensate you for any damage.

The Law Society has databases to find contact details of solicitors and regulated law firms:

About this information

This information is not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it’s used.

The digital estate - planning for the modern age

The digital estate – planning for the modern age

The digital estate – planning for the modern age

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We all own more and more intangible assets, particularly in the context of the digital age. While a traditional estate may contain an apartment, a car, a boat, and many movable assets, a modern estate also consists of various digital assets, which one might not immediately think about.

These may include:

  • online businesses and websites
  • computer source code
  • crypto assets (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum)
  • documents in the cloud (e.g. on Dropbox)
  • software licenses
  • internet domain names
  • social media accounts (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat)
  • email accounts (e.g. Gmail, Outlook, etc.)
  • ebooks (e.g. on Kindle)
  • music, audiobooks and podcasts (e.g. on iTunes)
  • movies (e.g. on Amazon Prime)
  • blogs (e.g. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium)
  • video channels (e.g. on YouTube)
  • photos on dedicated sites (e.g. on Imgur, Flickr, 500px)

These digital assets can have a significant financial value, such as bitcoins for example. However, often they will at least have a sentimental value for the testator’s relatives (such as the deceased’s photos in the cloud). In any case, they should be given the appropriate attention in estate planning and administration.

An inventory of digital assets and passwords prevents them from being lost forever

What needs to be considered when planning and administering the digital estate? First of all, it is important to find out what actually belongs to the digital estate of the testator. Ideally – but rarely in practice – the testator has created an inventory of digital assets during his or her lifetime. This inventory should also contain all the testator’s logins and passwords. Access to the testator’s email account is particularly important because it often is the key to accessing other websites. If the testator has not taken precautions, the passwords on various websites that the testator used during his or her lifetime can be reset and then accessed through the email account (provided that this is not illegal as is the case in some jurisdictions).

Particularly with crypto assets, it is essential that the testator provides his or her heirs with the “private keys”. Otherwise, such blockchain-based assets are basically lost forever. Of the approximately 18 million bitcoins currently in circulation, around 4 million have been lost through various combinations of sloppiness and bad luck. Passwords should also be written down for the heirs to find: take for example the case of Leonard Bernstein, whose memoirs have been encrypted on his computer since his death in 1990, with his heirs still trying to figure out what his passwords are.

Lack of clarity on rights of the deceased creates legal uncertainty and practical challenges

Another interesting question that requires clarification: which rights did the deceased really have (and thus which rights will the heirs have)? Providers such as Google, Facebook and others typically have terms of service (TOS). Upon closer examination, one will often be surprised to find that the rights of the testator were limited. For example, the terms may provide that he or she granted the provider an unlimited license to uploaded pictures and videos, or vice versa, that the individual has only obtained a license to the purchased films and music (which may even be limited to the purchaser’s own lifetime). A famous example is the case of the actor Bruce Willis, who apparently had a huge library of iTunes music and was annoyed that he could not leave it freely to his heirs – because the license granted to him by Apple was to expire with his death. Social media platforms take very different approaches. Some delete an account upon the death of the owner, others allow the account to be taken over by the heirs without restriction, and still others freeze the account and display a notice of the owner’s death. Innovative in this context is Google’s “Inactive Account Manager”, which allows the testator to determine who should have access after his or her death.

It is clear that the digital estate will continue to raise many interesting questions in the coming decades – both practical and legal. Individuals planning their estate should give sufficient consideration to their digital assets, so that their heirs are not left with riddles to solve.


Are you prepared for a digital afterlife? - Shepherd and Wedderburn

Are you prepared for a digital afterlife? – Shepherd and Wedderburn

Are you prepared for a digital afterlife? – Shepherd and Wedderburn

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Planning for post-death access and management of digital assets will save heartache for those left behind, says Campbell. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Planning for post-death access and management of digital assets will save heartache for those left behind, says Campbell. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Laptops and mobile phones are an integral part of daily life – the digital successors to the filing cabinet, the photo album, the CD and LP collection.

But what happens to those digital assets when we die? Since 2006, the percentage of adults using the internet has risen from 35 per cent to 86 per cent. That means an increasing number of people looking to safeguard access to their digital assets and information. Do digital files die with us?

Because of the complexities of the types of information stored online, as yet there is no precise legal definition of what counts as a digital asset. The assets exist in binary form, and come with a right of access or use. However, that right of access often dies with us.

As an example, according to the terms of use, an Apple/iCloud account, which may contain thousands of photographs or personal videos, terminates on death, at which point Apple may delete it. Social media applications such as Facebook and Instagram provide a little more flexibility, allowing a family member to delete or memorialise the deceased’s account. Twitter is proposing to do likewise.

This right does not extend to reading private messages, though in an isolated case a German court did permit a mother such access following her daughter’s death. These digital assets are generally of sentimental, not monetary value.

Planning will save heartache

There is also growing investment in cryptocurrency – which does have monetary value – increasing the need for clarity in legal definitions and access rights on death. The UK Jurisdiction Taskforce has released a statement that crypto-assets are to be treated as property in English law. This has important consequences, as property can be passed on by inheritance through testate or intestate succession.

On the other hand, assets that are not owned cannot be legally passed on. A good example of this is an iTunes account, where that extensive music collection comprises only a licence to use this media during your lifetime.

READ MORE: FinTech Scotland hails surge in financial tech firms setting up north of the Border

Planning for post-death access and management of digital assets, whether of monetary or sentimental value, will save heartache for those left behind. When granting a power of attorney, consideration should be given to providing your attorney with powers to enable them to access and manage your digital information and assets. A digital will can be drawn up in conjunction with a standard will, or as a separate document, appointing an executor to deal with digital possessions on death.

Compiling an inventory of digital assets, checking the policies of various internet service providers, and preparing a list of online accounts and email addresses will give your attorney or digital executor a vital source of information.

A will is a “living document” that should be regularly reviewed. This is especially true in relation to our digital estate.

– Gillian Campbell, partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn

Digital Assets: A Cyber Crisis After a Death in the Family

Digital Assets: A Cyber Crisis After a Death in the Family

Digital Assets: A Cyber Crisis After a Death in the Family

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“Everything we needed to get her affairs in order was on her phone. Her contacts would tell us who to reach out to about the memorial service. Her email would tell us whether she had made plans we needed to cancel. Her finance apps would tell us whether she had been paying bills electronically.”

After Leslie Berlin’s mother died, “breaking into her phone was the only way to put together the pieces of her digital life.” See the full article in The New York Times.

Have you ever thought about what happens to your email and social media accounts after your death? Or if you became incapacitated, would you want your agent under a power of attorney to have access to them? Traditionally, the executor of your estate or agent under a power of attorney (a fiduciary) stands in your shoes. But digital assets have complicated these classic notions. While the law can often be slow to catch up to technology, it is important to consider your digital assets as part of your estate planning.

Estate Planning for Your Digital Assets

First, what is a digital asset? In this context it includes email accounts, social media accounts, online storage services, online banking, computer files, and other electronic records. Unless you specifically prohibit it, the custodian of electronic records (such as Google) must disclose those records to your fiduciary, other than the content of emails and other electronic communications. An example of information that your fiduciary can obtain would be calendar and contact information, which may be helpful in notifying friends and family of your passing.

If you want your fiduciary to be able to obtain the content of email and other electronic communications, you would need to specifically authorize your fiduciary to do so in your will or power of attorney. Otherwise, they can only obtain catalog information, which for email would include the sender, recipient, date, and time of the email. Keep in mind that these procedures do not allow your fiduciary to login to your account and act as if he or she were you.

Of course, aside from the formal ways that your fiduciaries can access your digital assets, you should consider providing your trusted loved ones with usernames and passwords for your important online accounts. This will allow them to have access to your accounts without going through the time and expense of a formal legal process. Simply writing a list may be the easiest way, but it is less secure and requires frequent updating as passwords change and you add new accounts. A secure password manager (such as Lastpass or Dashlane) may be a better alternative.

Some online providers even have special tools for you to indicate your wishes. Google has the Inactive Account Manager, which lets you customize who can have access to your information and when (or automatically delete your account). Facebook allows you to designate a Legacy Contact, who, upon your death, can have limited access to your account, and even delete it. Upon your passing, your Facebook page can also be memorialized, allowing fiends and family to share memories.

Update your Will and Power of Attorney to give your fiduciary authority to access, manage and obtain copies of all digital assets under federal and state data privacy laws.

An updated will and power of attorney is important to make sure that your digital assets are handled the way you want them to be. As laws and technologies change, your estate planning documents need to change with them.

As always, contact us if you have any questions. Our Elder Law attorneys are always available to address your questions and concerns. Call us at 631.390.5000 or click here.