McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus was recently tapped for insight on digital estate planning by MarketWatch (WSJ), which has over 16 million unique visitors per month. Andrea Coombes’ column, “How to include your digital assets in your estate plan,” explores the importance of accounting for one’s online presence – from email and “bank accounts to Facebook, PayPal and more” – when planning for the transfer and administration of assets.
From the article:
If you fail to account for those digital assets in your estate plan, you risk burying your family or friends in red tape as they try to get access to and deal with your online accounts that may have sentimental, practical or monetary value.
John’s comments make up #5 and #6 on the article’s list of tips:
Consider writing both a broad statement of intent for digital assets as well as specific directions for each account. John O. McManus, founder of McManus & Associates in New York, recommends that “clients create a memorandum addressed to one’s executor and heirs indicating the intentions regarding specific digital accounts.” But to avoid the problem of forgetting to include an account, you need two statements, he says. “Due to the dynamic nature of technology and the fact that an average American could have hundreds of accounts, I also recommend a general statement of intention to encompass all other accounts — past, present, and future — belonging to the decedent.”
Think carefully and be specific about what you want your executor to have access to. For example, can he read all of your email messages? If not, be clear about that, McManus says. “When an executor is granted the power to access a decedent’s online accounts, this authority should be limited and specific in nature so that it does not allow an extensive and invasive search of the decedent’s online records,” McManus wrote in an email.
Click here to read Coombes’ full story. For help with properly accounting for your digital assets in your estate plan, reach out to McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100.