How big is your digital footprint?
Since the start of the new millennium the number of people using the internet has increased worldwide, some estimate that there has been a global increase of more than 500% from 2000-2015! Some people are very comfortable with the internet. They facetime with family and loved ones and reconnect with lost friends on Facebook or find new ones on dating sites. Others still cringe at the thought of touching a device and consider themselves internet abstainers. But is it really possible for someone to be totally off the grid in 2016?
Our digital assets include all those things we may not even regard as assets at all: computers and their contents, social media accounts, telephones and their content, websites and domain names, online accounts ( think Amazon) blogs, bitcoin, electronic financial records; music accounts; online shopping accounts; emails. This is already an exhaustive list and the list will grow longer and change with every technological advance that will be made.
How many people access their bank accounts or credit card statements online? Who pays their monthly bills via online transaction or purchase goods off of Amazon? Was your last movie rental through an online media company, Netflix? When you want to send your doctor a message to you speak with this office assistant or access a private portal and leave a message?
Whether you are tech savvy or totally a tech-o-phobic, it is highly unlikely that you are totally absent from the web. All this begs the question: What happens to your digital assets if you are unable or incapable of accessing them for yourself? Here are some suggestions:
Make an inventory of your online accounts and the passwords, keep it current and tell someone you trust where to find the list if you need them to access this information for you.
Consider making a Power of Attorney which provide the agent under the Power of Attorney with the authority to access your digital assets. The document should include specific language to this effect.
When you prepare your Will include in the document the authority for the Personal Representative to access your digital accounts and assets.
For now the law is not uniform and in some instances quite unclear. It would be a great help to you to make sure that someone you trust can access these assets and accounts by incorporating your wishes for them to do so into your Estate Plan. As more of our lives become paperless and web-based, it is becoming more apparent that we may have a much larger digital footprints than we imagined.
You may want to consult with your attorney to make sure your documents and Estate Plan provide you with the support in this area that you require.