When you create an estate plan these days, you need to worry about more than the money in your bank or retirement account, your house and the things in it.
We own a lot more than what we can see.
There's a whole world of things that belong to Californians out there in cyberspace and on the cloud. They are things we can't reach out and hand to someone to inherit or that one of our heirs can rip up and throw away on our behalf.
Doesn't it make sense to include them in our estate plan?
It sure does, especially because they typically are hidden behind passwords. And our executors or family members are left to try to crack through the digital codes.
There are things online of tangible value – such as bank or investment accounts – and sentimental value, such as years' worth of family photos stored on the cloud. Your family members likely won't have access to them unless you give it to them.
Under California's Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, executors and trustees are allowed access to a deceased person's digital assets under certain conditions.
The executor or trustee, in many cases, will need to have evidence of the decedent's consent, or perhaps get a court order, to verify their authority to touch the digital assets.
In creating your estate plan, you must leave a road map for the executor to follow. List everything you do online – email, social media, photo-sharing sites, credit card and bank accounts, airline miles sites, bill payment services and more – and leave account numbers, login information, the passwords and answers to challenge questions.
Keep that list safe. There are apps and other password management systems that are encrypted and can maintain its security. Write down your master user name password and put it in your safe deposit box so that your executor can access it.
Your estate planning attorney can provide more details on keeping your digital assets safe. It's a step you must take to help your executor distribute valuables to your heirs.