Estate Planners Must Understand Online Assets

A significant part of estate planning in the 21st Century is managing digital information. In the old days, estate planners could go through the paperwork on somebody’s desk upon their death or simply wait for the mail to bring all of the final statements.

Those days have passed. Many people planning their estates today keep track of more accounts digitally than they do with paper. This means people planning their estates must provide passwords and a thorough list of all digital assets.

Passwords can be tricky. Most professional estate planners do not want to be responsible for the passwords of the living. If someone hacked into a client’s account, there would be no way to prove where the hacker got the information. Some estate planning attorneys suggest keeping a list of digital accounts and the passwords to those accounts in a home safe or a safe deposit box. If the passwords change, then it is imperative to change the notes stored in the safe.

The range of information stored digitally will continue to grow. From professional photographs and manuscripts to domain names and other online documents, people have a great number of assets stored electronically now. Managing that information is important so that value and wealth is not lost.

An estate planner needs a comprehensive list of assets and liabilities stored digitally because he or she will need to know what potential value and liability exists and where it is. A fiduciary will need the correct power of attorney to administer the estate and find the passwords to access the digital information.

Estate planners look at passwords as keys. For example, they do not need the keys to a client’s car in order to execute a will, but they need to know where the keys are kept.

Many times, survivors are unaware of the assets and liabilities stored in the computer of the deceased. Trade secrets or other sensitive information could be left on a computer and donated. If that computer is compromised, then the estate could be liable for the information left on the computer. Likewise, a survivor might not know about domain names registered by the deceased that would be instantly valuable to a buyer.

People putting together an estate plan must disclose the estimated value of the information they have stored digitally. Estate planners may not know what to look for if the client does not outline all of the assets. This will help the fiduciary manage the estate accurately.

It is important to hire an attorney with estate planning experience. Today’s tech-savvy clients should look for estate planning attorneys who understand the challenges to planning in a digital world.

O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit

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