Estate Planning in the Modern Age–A Cloud of Doubt

estateplandigital_smallSome changes come so quickly and are so pervasive that people rarely stop to think about the consequences. Not that long ago, data storage meant boxes and boxes of paperwork. Seemingly overnight, the record of our lives moved from shoeboxes and filing cabinets to cloud accounts. Much of who we are is stored online, whether we realize it or not. This raises a number of issues, including concerns about data privacy and access when a person passes away.

Who Gets Your Digital Belongings

Posting photos on Facebook or Instagram is a common practice for many. It is not unusual for those photos to exist exclusively in digital form. If you were to pass away, who would be able to access those photos? Federal privacy laws restrict Internet companies from sharing your information with just anyone. While you may not be concerned by the loss of your Facebook page, other digital records may likewise be lost behind a wall of well-meaning privacy regulations. These regulations largely come from a time before Facebook or cloud computing rose to prominence. They are not necessarily helpful in making sure your loved ones have access to what they need after you are gone.

Your Estate Planning Needs

There are basic elements to estate planning. When looking at ways to protect yourself and your family in the future, you should consider the benefits of a number of tools, including:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Healthcare directives
  • Powers of attorney
  • Living wills

These tools can help you secure your family’s future, minimize estate taxes, protect your interests in a medical emergency, establish care for your minor children and more. The true value of an estate plan is not in creating documents, however. It comes from knowing that your family is protected. It comes from ensuring that your loved ones will have what they need during a difficult time. It is important to consider all of your assets, including digital assets, when forming the right plan for you.

Access to Information

The right to privacy does not terminate upon death. It is a mistake to assume that your digital assets will be treated just like your tangible assets. Someone will take possession of homes, keepsakes, possession and other physical assets. Digital assets can be absorbed or even lost without your loved ones ever knowing.

Some sites, like Facebook, anticipate the need for planning. Facebook allows users to designate a legacy contact who can access the users account upon death. Not all sites make it so easy. You should work with an estate planning attorney to catalog your digital assets. This will allow you to make sure that the right people have access, or can get it, when the time comes.

Want to Know More?

If you need experienced advice on how to establish an effective estate plan, an experienced estate planning lawyer can help. Reach out to the lawyer who created your current estate plan, or contact our dedicated team for a free consultation. We’re here to help.

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