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Increasingly in today’s society, people are choosing to go “paperless” and store their important information online. Although this is good for the environment, it can be a nightmare for the heirs and executors of an estate. To help ensure that your digital accounts and assets can be located and accessed when you are no longer around to tend to them, it is a good idea to address this topic in your estate plan.

The first step in creating a digital estate plan is to create an inventory of all your online accounts. This should include not only financial assets such as bank accounts, investment plans and retirement savings, but also personal accounts for things like email, photo albums, music files and social networking profiles. If you use sites like eBay, PayPal or Etsy, you will want to include those as well.

Although not all of your accounts will be valuable in a financial sense, they may have a great deal of personal value to your loved ones. However, unless you let them know where your accounts are and how to access them, they may be lost forever.

Of course, you will want to make sure that these accounts remain secure and private during your lifetime, so it is a good idea to bring the issue up with your estate planning lawyer. He or she can work with you to create a strategy to protect your digital assets and provide instructions for how you would like them to be managed in the future.

Source: CNBC, “Protect online assets with a digital estate plan,” Thomas Henske, May 19. 2014