When it comes to estate planning, I think it's imperative to go in-depth with clients. They've worked very hard to get to where they are, and I have worked very hard with them to plan for both their retirement and their estate. The last thing anyone wants to see is all of that hard work negated at the end of their life. I've said this a million times, but stop putting off your estate planning and deal with it today!
Even people with well-thought-out documents are often shocked at how much still needs to be done after a loved one passes. The process is often long and draining on the executor(s) left to settle the estate. One way to help is to not overlook some of the seemingly smaller but still very important details such as digital/cyber assets. Not only do these issues need to be addressed, but they are some of the more difficult issues to resolve because the accounts are often password protected or very challenging to access. What do we mean when we say digital/cyber assets? They would include things such as:
Online banking, including bill pay, linked accounts, auto withdrawals
Mobile devices such as cellphones, laptops, tablets etc.
Email accounts - some people have multiple accounts so this includes all of your emails.
Social media profiles including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
Sites that contain music, photos and other personal information
Even your computer itself
One way to help an executor is to address these issues right in the estate documents. Give consent to them to be able to both access these assets and control them on your behalf. Think about what you want to happen to those assets after you're gone? Do you want your Facebook page to remain active for example? If so, for how long? Can people post things to your pages?
Once you figure out what you want to happen to these assets, document and tell someone where to find all of the account information (ideally with the rest of your estate documents), such as a list of accounts and items as well as your login IDs and passwords. Consider using a password app so they only need to have one password to get to all the others.
These are just a few examples of items that should be addressed along with all of your other estate planning wishes. Addressing them now will help reduce the burden on your heirs.
Estate planning, as you can see, can become quite complex, and I always advise clients to seek out the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney to address all of your needs, as opposed to trying to oversimplify things by doing it online. Not everything in life is that easy.
Albert Einstein said it best, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler"! If you need a recommendation to a qualified attorney, feel free to reach out and I can provide you with referrals.
T. Eric Reich, CIMA, CFP, CLU, ChFC is president and founder of Reich Asset Management and can be reached at 609-486-5073 or email@example.com.
Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. Reich Asset Management, LLC is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation.