When people die without an organized account of their assets, it leaves the family trying to piece together clues from paper trails. Now, as a larger and larger portion of our financial lives becomes managed online, assets could be lost in the cosmos if they're not documented and accounted for.
Let last year's cautionary tale of the man who lost $127 million in Bitcoin be a lesson--if he can't get to his Bitcoin when he's still alive, how are you going to advise family members how to find yours from the grave?
While the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which has been passed in 36 states, extends the rights of fiduciaries to digital assets, individuals still need to communicate they have them, or else the investment accounts or cryptocurrency may never be discovered. Furthermore, with assets like Bitcoin, knowing about their existence isn't enough. Private keys are the only way to access cryptocurrency, and those need to passed on in some way.
Step 1: Take Stock. While things like investment accounts and Bitcoin may cause the greatest concern, your executor will need access to all of your digital accounts, from utilities to mortgages to telecommunications, in order to get your estate in order. You may be surprised to realize how many digital accounts you have.
Step 2: Communicate and Document Your Wishes. You will want to include the distribution of your monetary assets in your Will, but you should also leave your executor with instructions on how to deal with other digital assets, such as social media, emails, or files--including photos--stored in the cloud.
Step 3: Keep Your Records Up to Date. Set a twice-a-year calendar reminder to revise and update your digital account access notes. Passwords change, accounts are added and deleted, banks are acquired. Staying on top of changes more frequently will make updates much quicker. Don't forget to give your executor access to your password manager. If you do not use a digital password manager like Keeper or Dashlane, make sure your written list is locked in a safe--which your executor will also need the access code to!