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Don't forget your “digital life” in your estate plan

If you're one of those people whose bank statements and bills show up in your email inbox instead of your mailbox and you can't remember the last time you bought postage stamps, congratulations on minimizing your carbon footprint. However, if most (or any) of your financial and tax information is online, you need to include your digital life in your estate plan.

Fortunately, here in California, our lawmakers are on top of this trend. There's a state law that allows estate executors and trustees to access digital assets as long as the person to whom they belong consented to the disclosure of their digital information.

That consent involves more than simply giving your passwords to the person(s) you've chosen to be your executor or other administrator. Even with those passwords, they may not have a legal right to manage or even access your accounts.

Beyond your financial information, you probably have a good deal of other information online, and it may require log-in names and passwords to access. This might include your social media accounts, work information, photo albums, frequent flyer accounts, music services and more. While you're doing your estate planning, make a list of these sites, along with access information (including required answers to personal questions) for anyone you're authorizing to manage and access your data.

You can store this on a document accessible on your computer. However, make sure your executor knows the access information to get into your computer and the document. There are also online password management sites you can subscribe to. Some. like 1password.com may have a small monthly fee. Just be sure to keep the information current when you change a password or open a new account

Your California estate planning attorney can help you organize your digital life as you work together to develop your estate plan. They can also help ensure that your executor and other fiduciaries (including any powers of attorney you designate in case you become incapacitated) will be able to access and manage the information easily when necessary.

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