Accounting & Medicare Beneficiaries

Estate Planning Should Include Your Online Accounts

CPAs & Advisors

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Helping you plan for and protect your assets and your legacy is something we are very passionate about. We want to pass along some information about an area that you cannot afford to overlook in the estate planning process.     

Estate planning 2.0 – protecting your digital footprint

The growing popularity of online commerce and social media websites and applications has created a new challenge for executors and family members when a loved one dies. As more people choose to eliminate paper statements and opt to access account information online, including online banking and credit card accounts, it can be difficult to determine the number of programs, accounts and personal sites your loved one may have established.

That is why it is critical for all of us to create a list of online accounts and passwords. This list should be updated as new accounts are created or passwords are changed. It should be kept in a secure location along with your will and other estate planning documents so it is available to your spouse, adult children, or executor who will be responsible for closing out your digital footprint. Your digital footprint may include:

  • Email account(s)
  • Social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)
  • Online banking, credit card, and investment accounts
  • Health savings accounts (HSA) or supplemental medical insurance plans
  • Utilities or other ongoing expenses set up for automatic payments
  • Mortgage loans (if paid via automatic draft)
  • Car loans (if paid via automatic draft)
  • Gym, country club, and professional association memberships
  • Airline, credit card, and retailer rewards programs
  • Retail memberships (Amazon, Costco, etc.)
  • Cell phone/mobile apps

Minimizing the potential for identity theft following a death 

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for cyber criminals to target indexed vital records, which include death notices and other matters of public record, to aid in attempts at identity theft. Therefore, it is important to close or remove as many online accounts and registrations as possible following the death of a loved one to minimize their digital footprint and the potential for identity theft.

Most businesses, website hosts, and social media sites have policies in place to help you close accounts following the death of a site user or account owner. For example, Facebook allows its members to designate a “legacy contact” to manage their online profiles posthumously. Members can also choose to have their profiles deleted entirely upon notification of their death.

Typically, you will be asked to provide a certified copy of the death certificate and proof that you are the lawful representative of the deceased person or his or her estate to close an online account. In some states you may be required to provide Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration from the Probate Court in the deceased’s jurisdiction.

Consider documenting your vital digital information now as a reference for your family during a stressful time.

Provided by Michael L. Espinoza, CRPC

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