Planning for your Digital Demise

December 2, 2020by Kevin Painter

As clients age, they are encouraged to plan for events such as long-term care needs and eventual death by adding children to their investment and checking accounts, drafting legal documents to plan for the care at the end of life, updating their beneficiaries on their IRA and retirement plans and even documenting what family heirlooms that want passed on to certain heirs. But what happens to their social media profile, their frequent flyer miles, or other digital assets when they die?

During a recent estate planning webinar, I learned a new acronym, RUFADAA. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) has been passed in 48 states as of 2020. This act governs access to a person’s online accounts when the owner dies or loses their ability to manage those accounts. This act extends the power of a fiduciary, typically seen as individuals acting as a power of attorney or executor, to include the management of digital assets. By naming an individual in your will under RUFADAA you can appoint someone to manage your computer files, virtual currency, and social media sites.

You may keep a list of passwords (or use the same one) to the myriad of sites you access frequently, but does your spouse or your children know how to access those? After doing some research, I learned that there is quite the variance on what happens to those bonus miles, free hotel nights and Facebook memories once you have passed.

Here are four steps to start a conversation about a digital assets plan:

  1. Use a password app and make a list of all your passwords. This has become more difficult with Face ID on some smartphones. Make a detailed inventory of all online platforms you use, and the information associated with them. Consider sharing that information with your spouse, child, or executor.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the policies of certain loyalty programs if you die. For example, Delta Sky Miles does not recognize transfers of points if you pass, but Southwest does. Hilton and Marriott do permit transfers of their loyalty points, but you must know how to do it. For more information on airline/hotel points, here’s a great blogpost from the Points Guy on the subject:
  3. Protect your social media profiles. If you want your loved ones to be able to access all your information stored online, they will need your login and password. Without it, your heirs can request to memorialize the account, which secures it and lets other gather and share memories. Immediate family members may also request the removal of a loved one’s account from the platform.
  4. Make note of what bills you pay online or have drafted from your account. If you are the primary bill payer in your household, make sure that your loved ones know how you pay your monthly bills. If you pass away, you don’t want your executor to cancel a credit card or close an account that was set to pay the gas bill if you have family that still lives in your home.

As technology becomes a greater part of our daily lives, it is vital that you consider a digital assets component as part of your estate plan. It will protect you and your loved ones from cybercriminals and future problems.

Kevin Painter

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