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Should New York residents include digital assets in their wills?

The Pew Research Center reports that about 87% of adults in the United States are using the Internet and, as such, they are accumulating a vast amount of digital assets. Digital assets could include information, photos, notes and other data stored on social networking accounts or in email accounts. They could also be non-internet related information stored privately on one's computer, digital camera, cellphone or tablet.

Also, more and more people are using internet-based, storage services for the storage of important financial information rather than putting these documents into the family filing cabinet. As a result, keeping track of online accounts and passwords, and designating who will receive access to them in our wills is becoming a necessity. So how does one go about staying organized in this regard?

First and foremost, make a list. Create a spreadsheet and write down all online accounts by name, website address, type of account and include password and username information. Write down any other security features of the site -- like security questions, and so on. Also, do not forget to include password information to gain access to cellphones and tablets.

Individuals will want to include these digital assets in their estate plans so that executors can easily access all of their digital accounts. An estate-planning professional will know exactly how to incorporate these lists of passwords and websites into trusts, wills or other types of documents during the estate-planning process.

By organizing one's digital assets like this, New York residents can save their family members a great deal of stress after they pass away. Indeed, having a list of passwords for accounts will prevent relatives from having to contact these institutions or go through legal channels, which is time-consuming and sometimes costly, in order to gain access to the accounts.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Money Matters: Five ways to protect your online assets" Derek Lawson, Jul. 16, 2014

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