The Community Link, a newspaper serving eastern Ventura County, published “Securing Your Documents and Electronic Assets, Securing Your Wishes” in the October 2017 issue. The article is published in its entirety below, or see Community Link, and scroll through to page 10.
While we’re alive, we gather a library full of paperwork and access codes relating to such things as insurance policies, bank records, taxes, digital accounts, medical reports, personal property, and real estate and other assets. Protecting this kind of information is very important, but, surprisingly, many people forget to properly manage their documents and digital assets.
You want your records and documents safe from fire and other disasters, but you also want to protect yourself from misuse of your data and directives, including identity theft and, in later years, elder abuse. At the same time, your legal, financial and other information should also be easily accessible when you need it and when your loved ones must have access to it, if you are unable to handle your own affairs and upon your passing. How access is granted to your designees should be determined in advance and an integral part of your estate plan.
Additionally, most people laying out their estate plans primarily concern themselves with items such as homes, cars, bank and retirement accounts, jewelry, and other “hard assets” that may be distributed to heirs upon their passing. However, one area often overlooked involves electronic assets, which can be extremely valuable legacies to your family and others you designate.
These can include e-mails, videos, photographs, and social media accounts. Determining how you wish for them to be handled upon your death is important. Without your direction, those individuals to whom you will leave the online assets will have little chance of accessing them.
Keep in mind, the Terms of Service agreements emanating from your online account owners, such as Facebook and Google, can be troublesome. Even legal professionals are often at a loss when it comes to properly handling these accounts. First and foremost, understand that your accounts are not yours. They are the property of the service provider.
Be sure to check the provisions of the service agreements—you know, the ones that you may have skimmed over when originally signing up for your accounts! Some providers will not allow access to anyone other than the individual who first set up the account, regardless of permissions designated in wills, trusts or powers of attorneys.
Others, such as Facebook, will allow the naming of a legacy contact or deletion of the account after death. Google allows users to set up an Inactive Account Manager, which lets an account holder determine his or her own terms, such as how long before Google can delete the account or having Google send an e-mail notice of cancellation to designated contacts (in Google Settings) before deleting the account.
Moreover, the providers often change terms, deny access or require court intervention to access these accounts upon death or incapacity. If there are no direct wishes and powers granted, it may require a court order to access your assets and accounts.
At Terri Hilliard P.C., we provide a safe and effective program that uses bank-level security measures to keep your documents safe, but also accessible to you 24/7, providing control over inventory of assets and accounts for your heirs and loved ones when you are gone. You should have peace of mind in knowing your assets and your wishes will be well cared for during and after your lifetime. Give us a call to discuss these safeguards at 805-201-2552 or e-mail email@example.com.