Estate Planning Today Must Include Digital Assets and Social Media

It wasn't very long ago that we had only paper for financial and tax records. We could simply point to a file cabinet or drawer and tell someone, 'Everything is in there when the time comes.' But now we have computers and the internet, and so much of our lives is online. Unless we include our digital assets and social media in our estate planning, our family or administrator may not be able to find critical documents.

For example, if you scan documents or receive financial statements electronically, someone else may not even know these exist. If you use a program like Quicken or Quickbooks and tax preparation software, those records are on your computer. Facebook pages, blogs, email accounts and photos stored digitally on a computer or an online account would certainly have special meaning to your family.

Much of this information is password protected. Unless we make arrangements in advance, family members or administrators may not be able to access these and the information could be lost forever.

Estate planning for digital assets and social media accounts is similar to estate planning for other assets. You need to make a list of what you have and where it is located, name someone (with computer and social media know-how) to step in for you, provide that person with access, and provide some direction for what you want to happen to these assets.

Listing your digital assets by category (hardware, software, social media/online presence, online accounts) will help make the task less daunting. Next to each one, add user names, passwords, PIN numbers and the site's domain name. Keep this list in a safe place and tell your successor where it is. (Do not store it unprotected on your computer; if it is stolen, the thief would have all of your passwords. If you store it on your computer, password protect the file and give that information to your successor.)

Think about what you want to happen to these assets. For example, if you have a website or blog and you want it to continue, you need to leave instructions for keeping it up or having someone take it over and continue it. If a site is currently producing or could produce income (e-books, photography, videos, blogs), make sure your successor knows this. If there are things on your computer or hard drive that you want to pass on (scanned family photos, ancestry research, a book you have been writing), put them in a 'Do Not Delete' folder and include it on your inventory list.

Closing down accounts that are no longer needed will help to protect your family from identity theft after you are gone. The person you name as your successor will need a death certificate to do this. Consider naming this person as a co-trustee or co-executor with responsibilities limited to this area to give them legal authority to act for you.

Yes, this will take some time and thought. But, just like 'other' estate planning, the more we can do now to put things in order, the easier it will be for our families later.


The Many Needs for Life Insurance in our Lives

Posted on: June 20th, 2012
The main reasons most people have life insurance are to pay final expenses (medical, funeral, burial, etc.), replace an income stream and/or create wealth for our dependents after we die. Life insurance can also play an important role in business, estate planning and charitable giving.

When considering whether or not you need life insurance, think about what would happen to your loved ones if you should die today. Most people would agree if you have children (babies through college age) you need life insurance, but those who depend on us financially may also include our spouse, aging parents, siblings, and other family members with special needs.

Here are some ways life insurance can be useful at various stages in our lives.

Young Single Adults: If you have no dependents, you may only need enough life insurance to pay your final expenses and debt so your family will not have that burden. However, if you help support an elderly parent or another person, life insurance can replace that financial support. Life insurance is much less expensive when you are young and healthy, so if you anticipate getting married and having children some day (and your budget allows for it), buying some life insurance now would be a smart thing to do.

Married with No Children

At this point, both partners are probably working. If one should die unexpectedly, one income may not be enough. Life insurance can provide cash to pay final expenses, pay down credit cards and other loans, and help with mortgage payments and ongoing monthly expenses'at least until the survivor can make lifestyle adjustments. Again, if you are thinking about having children in the future, it's not too early to buy life insurance.

Married with Dependent Children

Adding kids to the scenario multiplies our financial obligations. In addition to final and regular ongoing expenses, life insurance can pay off a mortgage, fund college educations and provide for the surviving spouse's retirement, easing the financial burden on the surviving parent and even allowing a stay-at-home parent to remain at home with the children. If a stay-at-home spouse should die while the children are young, life insurance can provide the funds to hire someone to help with child care, shopping, cooking, transportation, cleaning, and other household responsibilities. At this stage, it makes sense to have life insurance on both parents.

Single Parents

Single parents already have the work and responsibilities of two people. Life insurance can provide the financial protection and security your family would need.

Business Owners

Business partners often have buy-sell agreements that are funded with life insurance; when one dies, the proceeds can be used to buy the other's share of the business from the deceased owner's family. 'Key man' insurance can be purchased on the life of an employee or partner whose role in sales or management is very valuable to the business; if this person dies, money would be available to help keep the business going while a replacement is found. Life insurance can also create an inheritance for all children, including those not working in the family business.

Empty Nesters and Retirees

Life insurance can help provide for the surviving spouse's retirement and potential medical and long-term care expenses. Existing and new life insurance policies can also be used to make charitable gifts, and to fund private foundations and trusts for future generations. Life insurance can also pay estate taxes, preserving the rest of the estate for family members.
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