The newsLINK Group - A Digital Legacy - What to Expect, How to Prepare

Editorial Library Category: Banking & Finance Topics: Banking Services, Digital Estate Planning Title: A Digital Legacy: What to Expect, How to Prepare Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Everyone knows it’s a good idea to have a will; in this modern digital age, though, it has also become increasingly necessary to have a plan for handling digital estates after someone has died. Editorial: A Digital Legacy: What to Expect, How to Prepare 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 Everyone knows it’s a good idea to have a will; in this modern digital age, though, it has also become increasingly necessary to have a plan for handling digital estates after someone has died. That’s why estate planning has expanded in ways no one could have foreseen even a few years ago. The broad categories include: Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter Online accounts and passwords for retail stores, banks, credit unions, and credit cards Online photos and videos Blogs There are times when people can manage without a team of people to help them. This isn’t one of them. After all, the issues involved in handling a digital legacy are at the forefront of many of the changes going on today. People should not try to navigate these waters on their own. Providing good advice to a bank’s customers is a vital service, but the role of the bank is changing. The world has altered a great deal even when you compare it to how things were as recently as 20 years ago. Bankers are just like the people in every other business. They need to adapt to the future and fill developing needs. The next few years are bound to continue changing many things we take for granted. Bankers who offer estate services should be key players in every aspect of estate planning. That means the digital ones, too. As a society, we are covering new ground, and as a result, bank customers need a team of experts, including bankers and lawyers, who have the training and developed instincts to safeguard every aspect of an estate. Planning is particularly important because it isn’t like there is a one-size-fits-all solution. Every company has its own concerns about privacy and its own rules for handling information. Since the whole idea is to delegate important decisions to trusted individuals, enabling them to tie up loose ends, that means someone needs to have Power of Attorney for managing assets. In some cases, though, it may also be necessary to appoint a Digital Executor whose duties are tied specifically to deleting or distributing online assets; for example, a bank customer may have a trusted individual who is in charge of almost every aspect of an estate but who just doesn’t know enough about digital estates to know what to do. A bank customer will ideally select someone who has the chops to handle both traditional estate planning and a digital estate. Experienced bankers will make sure that such a person is available at the bank. A Little Background Everyone knows that the Internet has changed everything having to do with information. As always, however, laws are slow to catch up. These matters are generally decided on the basis of individual company policies, and not by a set of state- level or federal-level guidelines. What the U.S. needs, but does not yet have, is a unified approach for handling digital information after the death of its rightful owner. As of February 2012, only a handful of states had laws to govern digital asset management: Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island. That doesn’t mean the laws are current. The 2005 Digital Assets Law in Connecticut, for example, is now eight years old. In a world where you get new Apple products every four to six months or so, these laws are now dinosaurs. For example, the law in Connecticut doesn’t deal with online bank accounts, blogs, social media websites, or accounts for sharing photos. You can’t assume that a company’s policies are necessarily going to be what the information’s owner would have wanted, or that matters will be settled in a timely way. Yahoo was taken to court in 2005 because it refused to give login and password information to the family of a Marine who had been stationed in Iraq when he died. The court mandated release of the information, which is good, but that means the family had to go to court in the first place. Anything having to do with court is expensive. How many families can afford to fight that kind of fight? How many families have pockets as