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Estate planning also includes addressing digital assets

Estate planning in Texas typically includes a range of documents, such as a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. It also usually includes a will and possibly a trust. However, because people's online presence is growing, estate planning today also often includes digital assets.

The average computer user has more than 90 accounts online. People assume that after they die, executors or family members will be able to access these accounts. However, this may not be possible, as individual digital-access providers have their own requirements and rules regarding accessing personal information.

Currently, four methods exist for transferring access to online accounts upon one's death. These include written instructions, which would be wise to store in a safe place, third-party password managers, digital legacy services and access via particular digital providers. Facebook is one digital provider that actually enables users to designate profile executors who are able to access their accounts upon the account creators' deaths.

If a person fails to complete estate planning in the state of Texas, his or her assets may not end up in the hands of the parties he or she would like to have them. Likewise, there will be no way for surviving loved ones to access the person's digital assets and request for accounts to be deactivated, for example. An applied understanding of the law may help people to develop estate plans that properly address their needs and wishes when it comes to how their assets are handled following their deaths.

Source: wealthmanagement.com, "Creating an Effective Digital Estate Plan", Christopher Steele, July 20, 2016

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