By Esther Allman Silberg
(AJNews) – Have you ever thought about how you may access a spouse, parent or child’s digital property if they were no longer able to do so?
There are so many new privacy laws now that it may become a huge problem for you, your estate or executor.
Canada currently lacks legislation to give someone automatic authority to deal with your “digital assets” and although it’s often easy to access paper versions, it is not so simple when records, documents, statements or even contracts exist only in digital form.
To save on “killing trees” many people do not ever print this information and it may be difficult to find out about an asset with a financial value, a bank account that is used infrequently, or any type of ‘trail” to suggest these accounts exist. Once you find them you may not be able to access them!
This is a fairly recent issue that may require you to re-do your Will or Power of Attorney documents to specifically authorize your executor or lawyer to have access to your digital assets.
I recommend that in order to help your executor or representative identify and deal with your digital assets you:
- Update your Will so your executor has the authority to access, modify, delete and preserve any digital assets, and perhaps have the power to hire and pay a computer expert.
- Update your Power Of Attorney (POA) document for finances so your executor has the authority to access, modify, control or delete any digital assets in the event of mental incapacity.
- Prepare a personal digital inventory that lists your digital assets, passwords, and gives some kind of guidance to the person responsible for accessing them
- Make sure you include any digital assets with financial value because some companies delete a digital account and its content if it is not used for a period of time.
You can store the information or guide to your personal digital inventory with your will or important papers, but it is also imperative that you update them on a regular basis!
Since you should change your passwords frequently, you should get into the habit of changing the information on this document to update the information periodically.
It may be counter-intuitive to write this information down as we are all told not to do this – consider the consequences though if you don’t.
One possible solution might be to encode and encrypt your passwords as well as store them separately from your master digital inventory and log book.
Ask yourself – if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, how or where would anyone find or know about my email, online banking, social media accounts, cloud storage, blogs, or anything else that I do online, on my phone, tablet, or computer that requires a login.
You should obtain your own legal advice for the current wording to use in your province.
Common types of digital assets
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Banking and finance
- Cloud storage
- Subscription accounts (e.g. Amazon Prime, professional journals )
- Photo storage and digital photos
- Blogs and websites
- Personal computer and other electronic devices
- Loyalty cards
- Online accounts for utilities
- Books, music, and videos or streaming
Currently there is no “best practice” method to complete and continually update digital information, but there is inherent value in gathering the information and keeping it secure.
Make sure that you let someone know that the document exists and where it is located similar to any other legal or important document. Tell your significant other, attorney, family member or executor knowing that this will help them should there be some catastrophic event happen to you in the future.
Esther Allman Silberg is currently a practicing Financial Advisor and is co-owner of Insight Wealth Management Inc. in Calgary. For information email Esther@insightwm.ca