If you are like me, access to technology makes each day easier, more efficient and a lot more interesting than I could have imagined. And yes I will admit there is a bit of dependency. I do depend on my computer and my smart phone… to keep up with news as soon as it happens, to Google the answers to all my questions, to shop, pay bills and bank online; to stay connected with family and with old and new friends, no matter where our travels take us. When I am able to see pictures of adventures and life posted on a Facebook wall it gives me an immediate and happy sense of being part of another’s moment in real time. Paying bills online, internet shopping, and doing my banking at home at midnight gives me a sense of pure freedom. But there is another side to this use of technology that we have to talk about... Digital assets! Digital assets describe a wide variety of content contained in digital form in an online environment. Assets like photos, social dialogue, notices or videos posted to sites like Twitter, Linkedin, You Tube, Facebook, or e-mail accounts, as well as the content of personal financial accounts, carry value whether it is sentimental or monetary. If you are a person like so many who uses social media, or who has online accounts, think about this: What happens to all that online information if you become incapacitated by illness or injury, or when you die?
A recent experience at our law firm drove home the need to be proactive in protecting digital assets. When a friend who was not nearly old enough died unexpectedly, her family contacted Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak law firm to help. One of the most challenging issues was the fact that no one in her family could take charge of her Facebook account or her credit card account. No one knew the passwords or the pin numbers and the systems in place made it impossible to reset! It was a nightmare for them during a very stressful time. Even though Pennsylvania has taken no steps to enact laws to govern the disposition of digital assets, we know it has become a national issue.
Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak advises all our Estate and Long-Term Care Planning clients to appoint a Power of Attorney that is responsible for their digital assets, and to also include language in their will that appoints an online executor to provide for the disposition of their digital assets. As a result, our Estate Administration team has been very successful in using these documents that appoint a person responsible for digital assets to successfully protect those assets in a seamless way. Like any Power of Attorney, special thought needs to go into choosing the best person to be responsible for your online information or to act as your online executor. This person should be technology savvy, experienced in programs where you have an online presence, and you need to outline your wishes in a detailed way. Maintaining a booklet separate from the computer or legal document that keeps track of accounts and passwords will make it easier to carry out your wishes.
Digital asset protection has become an important part of the Estate and Long-Term Care Planning process. We understand the importance of protecting your digital assets, respect their value, and know why it matters. Please contact Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak at 1-800-351-8334 for your FREE initial consultation to talk about how you can protect your digital assets!