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Include access to digital assets in your estate plan

In our digital world, it is an important part of any estate plan to keep an updated record of usernames and passwords for digital records and assets.

Heirs of those who die suddenly will not be able to access important documents stored in the cloud without the proper authentication. This adds another layer of stress for them at an already very sad and stressful time.

The best way to avoid this type of scenario is to keep a detailed list of all personal identification numbers (PINs), access keys, usernames, passwords and login information in a secure location, e.g., with your estate planning attorney.

Wherever you decide to keep the list, make sure that your heirs and estate administrator know its location. Ironically, a safe deposit box, while being adequate for storing many items, is not the place for such a list. Under most circumstances, banks refuse to provide access to these storage boxes until after the estate has been probated. This can be quite problematic.

What are your options?

Many people purchase a home safe to store small valuables, and this is a good spot to stash your digital access list. If you prefer, you can use an online service to store your passwords, as well. Just make sure that someone left behind has this information and is able to access it.

Below are some accounts and devices for which you may want to include access codes.

  • Email accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Computers
  • Cellphones and other electronic devices
  • Online subscriptions to digital music collections, photo storage and cloud drives
  • Any other digital assets of real or sentimental value

Taking the time now to prepare for any eventuality can save your loved ones the frustration of attempting to guess passwords or "jail-break" devices after your untimely demise.

Source: FindLaw, "Estate Planning -- Keep Track of Passwords, Access Keys and PINs," accessed Nov. 10, 2017

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