When we sit down to discuss who will benefit from what we have accumulated during our lifetime, we start with creating an accurate summary of our assets and our debts. We talk about houses, vehicles, bank accounts, pension and retire- ment accounts, life insurance, investments and other things of value that belong to us.
We also discuss our mortgages, car payments, personal loan payments, Visa and Mastercard bills and other similar debts. But what we sometimes forget to address are things that might not have a piece of paper that evidences their existence.
What kind of things do I mean? For instance, many people have bank accounts, savings accounts or certificates of deposit in financial institutions that are not "brick and mortar" facilities. We typically think of visiting our local bank branch but don’t consider online banks. As with so many things we find online, these banks require account numbers, PIN numbers and access codes. In a complete estate plan, it would be imperative for the representative of the estate to know that an account exists and other identifying information about the account. Without that information, access will be denied and it will then take additional time and effort to gain access.
There should also be some instruction left as to what to do with things like email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other similar online social networking accounts. These accounts certainly contain a great deal of personal information and need to be appropriately terminated at the time someone dies. Your spouse, child or other trusted family member who is going to represent your estate at the time of your death should have access to online information. This information would allow them to terminate a Facebook account, resolve any issues that might exist with purchasing or selling items through eBay, transfer online photos, records and files and finalize other similar activities.
Our firm has attorneys that understand the technological issues that face us in this digital asset age. We welcome the opportunity to help you make sure that you have properly and completely addressed all of the matters that will exist at the time of your death. We take many of these conveniences for granted in our day-to-day existence; however, the conveniences and the benefits that technology created for us may also create difficulties and problems for those we leave behind.
David S. DeRose is an associate at the firm and concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and administration, family law, real estate and zoning. David is also the current President of the Westmoreland County Bar Association.