Last week, the issue of digital assets came up at our new year coffee meetup. The group is made up of a variety of lawyers and non-lawyers. Our quarterly meetups are a great way to bounce ideas off one another. Since we all have different businesses, it’s a great way to learn through stories of personal experience.

At this meetup, one of the group had recently been through a terrible experience. His brother, who was young (under 40), had been in an accident and never fully recovered. Because he was so young, he didn’t have any estate plan documents. There was no health care power of attorney to make medical decisions. He wasn’t married, so there was no one immediately available for the doctors to consult. And when he died, there was no way to get into any of his online accounts, his phone or iPad.

Digital Assets

Many people do a lot of their financial transactions online these days. Whether it’s on their phone, tablet or computer, the ease of digital access makes it the most attractive option for most people. But how and where you store your passwords for all of these accounts is very important.

Some of the clients I meet with use the cringe-inducing method of a piece of paper or small notebook. It has all of their logins and passwords. Conveniently, they are all in one place. But what happens if that “one place” is lost or stolen? Others use a similar system, but use a computer file to list out all of their logins and passwords. Another convenient option, but if your computer is hacked, your information can be stolen. Or if you have a password on your computer, the file may remain inaccessible if no one knows that password.

Technology has stepped in to offer a good alternative for most people: a password manager. The password manager requires 1 master password, that you can keep in a safe place. But once the password manager is open, all of your digital asset passwords are available to the user. Most password managers also allow you to create unique passwords for each login. That way, even if someone guessed your password for Facebook (or just hacked Facebook for it), they wouldn’t get your password for all of your other sites.

As password managers have advanced, I have been recommending them on more frequency for my clients as a way to manage their digital assets. If you don’t have one yet, or still think that notebook in the top drawer of your desk is the best way to go, I suggest you do some research on password managers.

Short Note: Estate Planning for the Younger Generation

Our meetup also talked about the other elephant in the room: Why do most people under 40 not have any estate planning documents? Even though this young man was unmarried, a health care power of attorney could have really helped with his health care decisions after the accident. He didn’t need a complex estate plan. In fact, a simple will with a health care power of attorney would have probably been all he needed. It’s not a long or expensive process, but it’s one you should look into.

Next Steps

If you’re still storing all your passwords on a sticky-note in the top drawer of your desk and don’t have a will or health care power of attorney, call my office to set up a meeting and we can review the best options for you – (877) AMAYERS.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.