Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Vol. 23 No. 3

By

Jay A. Soled is a professor at Rutgers University in Newark and the editor of the SLD book, Estate Planning Strategies: A Lawyer’s Guide to Retirement and Lifetime Planning. The information in this article is intended as general information only and should not be acted upon without professional advice.

Over the past two decades, the Internet has single-handedly transformed the way we conduct business and our social affairs. As we have become more deeply enmeshed in the digital age, it has become increasingly important for us to address this dimension of our lives from an estate planning perspective. This column presents a strategy for doing so.

When it comes to digital planning, estate planners generally recommend that their clients “bifurcate” their lives into two spheres: business and personal. First, consider the business sphere. Usually people at work have important passwords for their e-mail accounts, as well as for general access to the business’s server and/or “the cloud,” a term that is often used to refer to the Internet or the virtual space on the Internet where you can save documents, photos, or any other digital matter. When you die, if no one knows your passwords, it can be expensive and problematic to gain access to these accounts. In particular, if important documents are maintained on these accounts, the lack of immediate access may come at a significant economic price to the business enterprise.

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