Including Digital Assets in Your Power of Attorney and Will

by David Goldfarb

These days, we pay bills, conduct business, and bank online. In many cases, you do not even need to go into a bank to deposit a check anymore. We conduct most of our communications by email, social media, or text message. Each account has usernames, passwords, security questions, and additional information that you choose to protect your information. Although highly convenient for you, our largely digital lives can cause difficulty for loved ones should you become incapacitated or pass away.

If something happens to you, paper invoices may not exist to identify your online accounts or bills that someone should continue to pay. Even if family members know about certain accounts, they may not know your usernames or passwords. Terms of service may prohibit unauthorized access to online accounts, even if someone does figure out how to log in. This can cause serious financial complications, so always plan ahead and include digital assets in your power of attorney and last will and testament.

Durable Power of Attorney

Specify in your durable power of attorney that the designated individual should have access to all of your online accounts. This way, someone can continue to manage your accounts and pay your bills while you are unable to do so yourself. New York has a Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney which requires the exact wording of the form and only allows for modifications such as control of digital assets in a “modification” section of the form.

Last Will and Testament

Make clear that, after you pass away, the executor of your will should have access to your online accounts just as you did. Create a document with the pertinent information to access those accounts. This not only includes all digitally accessed bill pay and banking sites, but also investment accounts, life insurance, and other financial assets.

Use a password manager so that you only have to provide one password to your power of attorney and executor, which will then provide access to your entire inventory of online accounts.

If you do not include digital assets in your estate planning documents, you can risk many problems, including:

  • Bills go into default and incite collectors to file claims against your estate
  • Your estate simply loses assets in an undiscovered financial account
  • Accounts connected to your bank account or credit card (for example, PayPal or Amazon) could get hacked and nobody may ever discover the missing money

Contact a New York Estate Planning Law Firm for More Information

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but can make changing estate plans more complicated. For more information about your estate plan, please call a skilled New York estate planning attorney at Goldfarb Abrandt Salzman & Kutzin LLP at (212) 387-8400 or contact our office online.