We can all agree that we currently live in the Digital Age. We have seen the Stone Age, the Industrial Age, the Modern Age and now … the Digital Age. The Digital Age has a lot of benefits: paperless access to important documents, instant communication, immediate photo development, keyless access to home and automobiles, and countless other conveniences. However, the Digital Age also presents challenges to consider.
The first challenge is privacy. There are cameras everywhere and you never know where you are going to be filmed and who is going to see it. I recall a story of a woman who caught her husband at another woman’s home by viewing Google Earth. On a recent trip to Ireland I was able to view the streets of the cities in advance. It was odd getting off the tourist bus and walking down a street for the first time and feeling familiar with the shops and houses along the way. Now when I want to reminisce about my trip I go to the computer and “cyber” walk the locations previously toured.
There is also the need to be mindful of security issues. Much of our personal information is available to anyone with on-line access. Did you know that you can find out what your new neighbor paid for their home and how much they have it mortgaged for? While this information has always been available by a visit to the county courthouse, you can now research the county land records and find out all sorts of information without leaving your computer. While this may be beneficial in many ways, not everyone is comfortable with the public having access to their personal records.
Another important consideration in our digital age is how to allow access to the information stored in your computer under usernames and passwords in the event you become incapacitated or have passed away. The amount of information which requires a username and password that our loved ones will need in an emergency is significant…… credit cards, bank accounts, EZ pass, and social media accounts to name a few. It is important that you have a plan in place that will permit access to your important digital information.
Recently, while attending an estate planning conference, I picked up a document entitled “Asset Availability in the Digital Age” published by Docubank. Docubank is a company that assists with the online storage of documents and other valuable information, and offers many services which allow the people you chose to have access to important digital information such as passwords, user names, legal documents and medical information. Docubank has developed a service called Docubank Complete. Docubank Complete allows your executor to access your digital information when needed.
While the Digital Age has granted many conveniences, it also presents the need to establish a plan to protect personal information while we are alive, and provide access to manage this information when the time comes that we can no longer manage it on our own. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you create the right plan for your circumstances.
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