Planned Giving in the Digital Age; How to Safeguard Digital Assets

February 3rd, 2014

Tate Haire, CFP®
Wealth Advisor at Wells Fargo Private Bank
Member of the DLC Planned Giving Committee

As more and more of us spend our lives in the digital realm, the footprints we leave behind are increasingly left online, which make it difficult for the transition of these types of assets. In this Planned Giving article, we’ll discuss the types of digital assets that you may have and how to think about safeguarding these assets, especially in the context of planning for a smooth transfer in case of death or disability.

Blogs, Web Pages, Domain Names, and Online Businesses

One example is online businesses, domain names, and other items that exist almost exclusively in the digital realm. While “virtual” in nature, these assets may hold tremendous value, and this value can drop precipitously in a short period of time if a proper estate plan is not in place. An online business that sits stagnant due to the lack of a proper succession plan could face a loss of revenue or worse. If hosting and support fees are not paid in a timely manner, entire sites may be decommissioned and entire businesses may be lost.

Online Financial Accounts

For some families, bill pay services and online investment accounts may be entirely managed by one member. What happens to these accounts when that person is gone or incapacitated? Missed payments on a debt instrument could result in late fees or have impacts to credit. Additionally, unless an executor is aware of or has access to all accounts, settlement of this estate may be delayed.

Other Online Accounts

In addition to accounts and items with financial value, many items with a less explicit value are also stored or created online. Family pictures, genealogy work, frequent flier programs, and other items are sometimes exclusively digital in nature. Password protection and other safeguards can prove challenging for the next generation to retrieve and transition these assets. <

Social Networking Sites

With a myriad of social networking options to document our opinions, friends, and lives available, any estate plan should include the decommissioning and transitioning of this valuable data. Information should be archived or risk being lost forever or even stored in perpetuity.

The loss or incapacitation of a loved one is always challenging. By taking proactive action today, you can help ease the burden of the financial impact to your heirs. The key is to take action by documenting your digital life and discussing that with a trusted advisor.

If you aren’t sure how, we encourage you to talk to your estate attorney or a member or the David Lawrence Center Planning Giving Committee at 239-304-3505.

© 2010 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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