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Estate Planning Blog

Serving Clients Throughout North Central Missouri


What are the Best Ways to Protect Digital Assets?

Boomers may be the last generation to use cash and paper checks for financial transactions. However, according to a recent article from GO Banking Rates, “6 Ways for Boomers To Preserve Their Digital Estate and Online Assets,” many have switched to digital wallets.

With the rise of digital finance, it’s crucial to stay vigilant. While hackers may be more skilled in the digital world, you have the power to protect your digital assets. Here’s what you can do.

Emails are rife with scammers. Even an email from your bank shouldn’t be trusted. Never click on links within an email—go to the website from your browser instead. “Phishing scams,” where an email from someone you know asks for quick action, should always be treated with the utmost care. Misspellings or weird URLs should be red flags to alert you to a scam.

Keep a close eye on financial accounts. Fraud is best detected early. Check for unknown charges on credit cards and bank statements. One common technique is to make a small charge on a credit card to see if it is detected, followed by a sizeable charge. Set up your accounts to send alerts for every transaction to fight this.

Don’t go online on unsecured networks. Your local coffee shop or library is not the place to conduct financial transactions. Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, ever. It only takes one opportunity to clean out your bank accounts.

Take software updates on cell phones, laptops, tablets and desktop computers. Many software updates are sent when vulnerabilities are spotted. If you don’t take the software update, you could open yourself to hackers.

Go for the two-factor authentication. Some people feel that having to go through a two-step process to log into a favorite site is too much work. This added layer of security makes it harder for hackers to access financial information and access your systems. It’s worth the extra time.

Don’t use a wimpy password. Passwords are notoriously easy for hackers to figure out. Birthdays, pet names, street addresses and even the word “password” are common and quickly figured out. Did you know there’s software used to crack passwords? Hackers do. Make yours harder to figure out using a combination of letters, symbols and numbers.

While protecting your digital assets, don’t forget to protect your traditional assets. If you haven’t already secured your estate with a last will and testament and protected yourself with estate planning documents, like Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, and medical directives, make an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney. You’ll be glad to have both your digital and traditional assets protected.

Reference: GO Banking Rates (May 30, 2024) “6 Ways for Boomers To Preserve Their Digital Estate and Online Assets”

Retirement Planning

Who Gets Access to Your Digital Assets Account When You Die?

With so much of our lives now lived online, it’s hard to remember how we lived in a world without email, internet, or mobile phones. However, the question of what happens to our online lives after we die becomes a challenge for loved ones, says a recent article, “One day you’ll leave this earth, but your data will live on in a messy future” from WFIN.COM. Few people 65 and older have a digital estate plan, meaning the next generation must clean up what’s left behind.

Let’s start by defining digital assets and digital legacy. Digital assets are anything in digital format, including photos, videos, emails, social media account content, websites and cryptocurrency. A digital legacy is all the digital assets left behind when someone passes.

A digital legacy may include personal, financial and creative digital property. For instance, if you’re a prolific blogger, you own intellectual property. What do you want to have happen to your blogs after you’ve died? Or, if you have a craft business on Etsy, who will manage it?

Digital assets don’t disappear when you become incapacitated or die. They live on unless someone has been designated as a digital executor and there is a plan to manage the assets. What happens also depends upon the platform’s privacy and legacy policies. In some cases, accounts and their contents are deleted after a certain period of inactivity.

What happens if no digital estate planning takes place?

  • Online financial assets, including bank accounts and cryptocurrency, have economic value your executor needs to be able to access and manage. If they can’t locate a username and password or are stymied by third-party verification like facial recognition, gaining access to your assets will take a long time.
  • If you’re among the millions who enjoy creating a family history with genealogy websites, years of work you may have wanted to pass to the next generation may become inaccessible or vanish.
  • Identity theft and fraud are common occurrences when digital assets are not managed or deleted after the original owner dies.
  • Some platforms allow users to name a legacy contact who can access their accounts, gather and download content and close accounts. You’ll need to review your social accounts to determine what each platform permits and set up legacy or memory accounts.

A digital executor doesn’t always need passwords and usernames to delete, memorialize, or close your accounts. However, they will still need an inventory of your accounts and a clear directive explaining what you want to happen to your assets after your passing. Password sharing, while common, is not legal. Most states have passed some version of the RUFADAA—Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Talk to your estate planning attorney about incorporating digital estate planning into your estate plan.

As a side note, if gathering your account information seems overly burdensome, imagine what would happen if your executor, already busy with so many tasks, needed to become a digital sleuth to determine what assets you have and how to access them.

Reference: WFIN.COM (May 11, 2024) “One day you’ll leave this earth, but your data will live on in a messy future”