Obenauf Law Group Hawaii Law

With everything going online these days (even The Mauimama), last month we taught a class on “digital assets” for the kupuna at Kaunoa Senior Center. The Kaunoa seniors were interested in the question, “What happens to my digital ‘stuff’ when I die or become disabled?”
This question is very relevant in today’s society and can be applied to anyone who has digital accounts or who has older children, siblings, friends or parents who pass too soon.

We began thinking about our online “footprints.” Exactly how many online store accounts (Amazon, Ebay), membership programs (Netflix, Audible), and social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram), do we own? Add to that our own websites and blogs, online bank accounts, and email addresses, plus the more advanced stuff, like gaming avatars and online farms, and it makes us wonder, who will tend the online farms if we (or they) are gone?

I’m kidding about the online farms, but the online bank accounts, not so much.

When someone is tasked with acting as an executor for a deceased family member or friend, he or she is responsible for four steps: 1) Inventory the estate; 2) Secure the estate; 3) Pay the debts of the estate; 4) Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

This job is challenging enough for family members who know where each account is located. We often meet family members who have travelled from the mainland to take care of a deceased sibling’s estate. In the middle of grieving, they feel overwhelmed trying to locate the bank accounts and credit card accounts. Adding the online footprint of their deceased loved one to this inventory feels exhausting.

To prepare for our Kaunoa presentation, we researched the policies of some of the popular social networking, email, and web-hosting services, and they differ widely. Some companies, like Instagram, will permit loved ones to memorialize the decedent’s account. Other companies, like Twitter, will permit certain individuals with proper authorization to terminate the account only.

Some websites are making planning ahead easier. In 2015, Facebook announced it was adding a program called Legacy Contacts, through which users can designate a contact person to write a pinned post for the user’s profile page, such as a final message or memorial service information; respond to friend requests; and update the user’s profile and cover photos.

My takeaway from preparing to teach this class is: performing your own inventory in advance is a great gift to your loved ones. I mean, think of how hard it is for you right now to compose a mental list of your online accounts. Now try to compose a mental list of, say, your aunt’s accounts. Not easy.

Maintaining a list of accounts would be a helpful starting point to the person tasked with taking care of your online footprint. Plus, you can include instructions, in case you have something you do not want a loved one to see when he/she is hacking your computer in an attempt to locate your accounts and close them.

If you have any more questions about wills, trusts and guardianships (who will take care of your children if you are gone) call and make an appointment. It can put your mind at ease and is easy to take care of.

Image Credit: Obenauf Law Group

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Meg Obenauf is an attorney and the founder of Obenauf Law Group. She strives to help families pass on their wealth simply, without conflict, drama, or taxes and works with families to protect their money and property from the ravages of nursing home and long-term care expenses. Meg helps parents of minor children create plans so that your keiki are never out of the hands of your loved ones, even for a moment, if the unthinkable should occur. She works with clients to create customized plans designed to ensure that your wishes are recognized and followed. Meg is a graduate of Harvard Law School. She resides in upcountry Maui with her husband, Mark, and her two young children. You can contact her at 244-3905 or go to www.obenauflawgroup.com for more information.

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