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Estate planning 101: Two options to preserve digital assets

Putting together an estate plan is an important step towards wealth management. However, an oft forgotten area of estate planning involves digital assets. These assets should also be included within your plan.

There are two basic routes to ensure these assets pass in accordance with your plans, one is tangible and the other is a bit more elusive.

The tangible answer: Write it down.

Arguably one of the easiest ways to ensure that the accounts that compose your digital assets are transferred is to write the information down. Record the accounts and corresponding passwords in writing.

Unfortunately, this goes directly against the first rule of security. As a result, if you choose to write this information down store it safely – but not so safe that it cannot be found at a later date. Leave instructions on where to find this information. For some, it makes sense to keep this information within a safe box at a bank.

The intangible: Use the Internet.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can ensure these assets are passed by using the very thing that may make the passing difficult: the Internet.

Various online options exist to help ensure these assets are passed without much difficulty. First, many accounts are including an option directly within the account that allows the owner to list an executor that can gain access to the account in certain situations. This option is already available on Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.

A second option involves using a password manager. This is a service that allows designated officials to request access to stored information. This stored information can include a list of passwords. Once a request is made by a designated individual, an email is generally sent to the owner. The owner then has a certain time period to deny the request. If the request is not denied, the designated individual can gain access to the stored information.

Which is right for you?

Ultimately, determining the right option for you needs is a question only you can answer. Whatever option you choose, the most important step is to have a method in place that allows access to these assets.

A recent publication in Wealth Management discussed these options, noting it is wise to include a provision within your will stating that an executor should have access to these accounts. Depending on state law, which is always evolving, this provision can provide an extra safety net to better ensure access to these accounts.

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