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by: Maurice Offit, Principal Years ago, important paper documents were saved. Typically, the documents were kept in safes, fire proof cabinets and safe deposit boxes; and when a person passed away, the documents would be retrieved by the executor of the decedent’s estate as they contained the information that was needed to administer the decedent’s estate and distribute the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s Will. All of that has changed. Paper is a thing of the past – it’s been replaced by data that is stored electronically on computers. The data is easy to access – by typing the appropriate user id and password, the data is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. User ids and passwords prevent personal and confidential data from falling into the wrong hands and causing irreparable harm. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that user ids and passwords are jealously guarded. More often than not, they’re not written down and they’re not divulged to anyone. From an identity theft standpoint, this makes perfect sense. But, from an estate planning standpoint, it’s the worst thing possible as the data may need to be accessed to manage the financial affairs of a person who becomes incapacitated and to properly administer the estate of a person who has passed away. Estate planners, therefore, recommend the following to their clients: 1. They should make a written list of all of their user ids and passwords and the accounts to which they apply. 2. They should provide the list to the people that would take charge of their affairs in the event of disability or death. Estate planners typically refer to the these people as “digital fiduciaries.” 3. They should specify in their estate planning documents that their digital fiduciaries are authorized to use their user ids and passwords to access data. 4. They should indicate in their estate planning documents who the data belongs to in the event of death. Otherwise, there could be disputes over who is entitled to the decedent’s digital photographs, the decedent’s digital music library, etc. 5. They should review their estate planning documents and verify that digital fiduciaries have been appointed and digital assets have been bequeathed. If this has not been done, the documents should be updated. Maurice L. Offit is an estate planning attorney, co-founder of Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Offit counsels a large number of clients who share an interest in minimizing estate taxes and asset protection from the claims of creditors. He can be reached at 301.575.0308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT MAURICE OFFIT
email@example.com | 301.575.0308 Maurice Offit is an estate planning attorney, co-founder of Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Offit counsels a large number of clients who share an interest in minimizing estate taxes and asset protection from the claims of creditors. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn.