This world is becoming more and more digital every day. Technology is changing at such alarming rates that it is difficult to keep up sometimes. Many of us have Facebook accounts, LinkedIn accounts, Apple Icloud and other online storage accounts. Instead of cash, checks, and credit cards many people are using Venmo or Zelle to pay their bills. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin are being bought and sold for investment purposes as opposed to stocks and bonds. Purchases are made with virtual currencies and valuable website domains have ongoing subscriptions that may lapse if no one knows their value or even that they exist. Have you ever pondered what happens to the information stored in your online accounts or what will happen to your bitcoin investment if no one knows where to look for it when you become incapacitated or pass away? Are there accounts opened out there in the black hole of the internet that you may not want anyone to see or know about? What will happen to that information when you are gone?
Planning ahead to head-off these issues is necessary, however, it isn’t easy. Every account has their own terms of service, most of which no one reads or understands. Writing things down specifically in your will could open up opportunities to thieves since most wills are available to the public. Having all of the information outlined in a trust document is a better option since most trust documents are more private; however, there are still a lot of people that will see these documents such as other lawyers, accountants, or investment advisors.
The best thing one can do is read the fine print when the account is opened. Provide enough information to your heirs so that they know where your accounts are held, the username on the account, and what is in it. This information should only be given to those that can keep it safe and confidential. Also, you may need to write a letter that tells the administrators of these accounts what you want to happen to the information. Should the account be closed, deleted, allowed to be accessed for memorial reasons? For how long? Should someone be notified that the account exists when you pass away? You will need to provide enough information to your heirs that the administrators can specifically identify the account as yours, sometimes your name and address is not enough. Your instructions should adhere strictly to the terms of service, otherwise your wishes are likely not to be followed when you pass on. Consider opening a safe deposit box and putting in a constantly updated list of your accounts and how to specifically access them. This safe deposit box should have a beneficiary attached to it so that the information won’t be lost. No one knows exactly when our time here on this earth will end. It’s time we all give some thought to what is not in our wallets.