Technology has certainly shifted our society over the last 15 to 20 years — you can see it right here in the West Michigan area.
So much so, that it’s time we discuss estate planning with a technological twist.
Before we get there though, may I offer you this important reminder: the only “magic” we can do on a tax return is a “reaction” to what is being done right now.
What I mean by that is that preparing a tax return is historical reporting. And yes, we’re certainly better equipped to find every possible historical deduction than some Joe down the street or a piece of robotic software (however many CPAs might be “on call” to assist the robots) — but we can only respond to what has already occurred.
In other words, if you want to make changes to your tax situation with smart planning, give us a call ((231) 747-7648) or head over to the contact page to shoot me a message and let’s talk. Let’s get ahead of the game.
Otherwise, we’re just cleaning up after the fact.
Now, all that aside, there are a few key pieces when forming an organized estate plan, but here are a few pointers when it comes to your personal, digital assets for the sake of future management and allocation.
Forrest Tax & Accounting Services’s Guide to Estate Planning for Digital Assets
“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” -Confucius
This isn’t particularly a “fun” topic, but again, this day and age calls for it. If you have a lot of important business and data online (most of us do) let’s ensure that nothing is ever lost.
Define “Digital Asset”
Before we go any further, the following could be considered digital assets in your name:
- Social Media Sites
- Financial Accounts
- Music Files
- Customer Database
The list goes on, but these are a few common personal online assets.
Have you created a will? If so, estate planning for digital assets works similarly in theory.
And a huge component of the planning phase is to get your assets in order. The list provided is a great place to start. Are those items listed organized? Are they saved onto an external hard drive? Do you have them under certain files in your computer? (“The files are in the computer!”)
Side: After compiling this list, it’s important to decide if you want a fiduciary to disperse and allocate the information accordingly.
In addition to the items on our list, you should list out all of your passwords and security questions. But you probably shouldn’t keep those in a Word Document or Google Doc. There are numerous password services that will keep those passwords safe for you. (Although most password managers cost a little cash, your privacy and safety are worth it in the end.)
As for social media, you do not need to leave login information for many social media accounts, according to their policies — simply the username and information for how to contact the company is sufficient. These “deceased user” policies are often buried deep in their “help” sections and can be hard to find.
Here is a list of policies we located for the major companies:
Take a few moments and familiarize yourself with each site’s policies that matter to you.
If you take the time now to record which social media sites you have accounts and what you would like to happen after your death, your family will not have to guess after the fact, try to remember where you had accounts, or try to figure out what you would have wanted. They will see your instructions and know what to do.
Make a Plan and Stick to It
After collecting and listing out your digital assets, it’s up to you and the fiduciary to make a plan for the future. Execute this kind of plan within your will, and come to an agreement on asset alignment or destruction in the event of death or disability.
Winston Churchill once said, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” And although we can’t be certain the “plans” of our life, “planning” makes the uncertainty a little more bearable.
Need any help or clarification? Please reach out and give me a call. I’d love to walk you through some necessary, financially-sensitive steps in this information (and digital) age.
Forrest Tax & Accounting Services