If you are like me, you prepared a will, establishing financial and health care powers of attorney, and set up a distribution plan as part of an estate plan. Have you included your digital assets and online account information in your estate documents?
A recent article from Smart Money made me pause and think. “Have I done enough to protect our family’s digital assets and make them safe for the future?”
What Are Digital Assets?
Digital assets can range from things with obvious financial value (online bank and brokerage accounts, and Web-based businesses) to less obvious but still valuable properties like domain names, blogs, Twitter accounts and even social media pages like Facebook. Without log-in information, access to those Web accounts and services may require hiring a computer-forensics expert or obtaining a court order.
Unfortunately, digital assets and online account information are often left out of the estate planning process preventing loved ones from accessing and caring out our wishes regarding our digital property. Most accounts are password protected and have terms of service that prevent third parties, including family members, from accessing the accounts without the accountholder’s permission or a court order.
Legislation governing digital asset management after death has been passed in only five states (Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, Indiana, and Connecticut). Even in these states, the laws are just now being tested.
A Missouri Situation
When Missouri estates and trusts lawyer Robert Kirkland was preparing a will for a client several years ago, it never occurred to him to include any provisions about electronic bank statements or e-file tax services, both of which were then relatively new.
The result of that omission became clear only last year, when the client died unexpectedly — and his wife had no way to access their joint online bank accounts and the other key financial records that were stored digitally. After weeks of trying to guess her late husband’s passwords, the widow finally had to call on some IT specialists to hack into his computer. Kirkland still cringes when he thinks about it: “It was a headache on top of a heartache,” he says.
The Digital Estate Problem
As more and more of our lives goes online, estate planners are grappling with how to advise clients to secure and transfer their virtual estates — the bodies of non-tangible, digital assets people create and store on their computers and the Internet. Thirty-six percent of adults over age 45 now do their banking on the Web, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and millions of people store some financial records online, which are often locked behind myriad user names and passwords.
Gene Hennig, one of Minnesota’s commissioners to the Uniform Law Commission, said that a court order is one of the few options families have in obtaining access to a loved one’s online accounts.
“You’ve got to hire lawyers. It’s time-consuming. Some people may go to all that trouble and it took forever to get the order and by the time they got it, the stuff had been destroyed. It’s just an unworkable and very inefficient way of doing things,” Hennig said.
What Can You Do?
Talk to your estate planner. Some estate planners are creating step-by-step instructions for how heirs can access and transfer virtual properties after a client’s death.
For starters, working with your estate planner, you can take inventory of all your digital accounts and store an updated list of passwords on a flash drive, locked in a safe. Some pros are also looking to websites like Legacylocker.com and AssetLock.net, which enable users to release account information to designated beneficiaries after their death.
Taking even a few modest actions now, says New York attorney Bernard Krooks, can keep your assets from getting lost in a cybercemetery.
The article from Smart Money forced me to think about my own digital assets and how I want to make them more secure. I hope it gives you additional ideas to consider about making your digital world a safer place for you and your family and for the future! Be safe.
Much of this information was taken from the article in Smart Money.
AT&T has announced that starting in 2017 they will no longer support 2 G home security systems. 2G home security networks are on their way out! Many earlier versions of home and commercial security systems are built on 2 G radio frequencies.
While 2017 is a long ways off, the security industry has already notified us to expect some degrading of home and commercial systems using the 2 G frequencies. You want your home security system to provide the best security for your and your family.
If you have doubts about your current security system, give us a call and we will evaluate your system and show you options for upgrading your 2 G Home Security system to systems supported by AT&T.
Tax Refund Fraud…Its tax season again. We worry about “the tax man.” In today’s world, we also must worry about a new tax danger, Tax Refund Fraud. Let me share with you some thoughts about Tax Refund Fraud from several articles on the Tax Refund Fraud. Learn the ways you can protect yourself.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine – let’s call her Mallory – got an unsettling call from her accountant. The accountant had been preparing Mallory’s taxes, hit “Send” to e-file the finished return, and it was rejected. Someone had already filed a tax return using Mallory’s Social Security number. She’d been a victim of tax identity theft.
The accountant called the IRS, but they wouldn’t talk to her. Mallory called and was directed to the fraud department. While she was on hold, she made more calls: one to a friend at the FBI, another to the FTC and the last one to me.
Mallory had just become a statistic. The aftermath of tax identity theft is messy, and since 2012, the number of victims has been on the rise. Millions of Americans who expected refunds—often desperately needed to make ends meet—have waited the better part of a year to get their money back – and even then only after they had traversed a paper labyrinth to prove to the IRS they had been the victims of a crime.
Tax Refund Fraud–What You Can Do to Protect Your Tax Identity
Scott Mitic, CEO of TrustedID, an identity-protection company, offers the following suggestions on how to protect your identity in tax related matters.
Be careful about who does your taxes. Choose someone who has good references from family and friends.
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet.
Did you know that majority of identity thieves are from people you know? Don’t leave personal information lying around the house where guests, nannies, housekeepers or construction workers might find it.
The internet is a great place for identity thieves to gather information. Don’t offer your birth date and the city of your birth on your Facebook page. These bits of information can be pieced together with others, such as your Social Security number, your address and your mother’s maiden name, to form an identity.
Never put your tax forms in your mailbox. Put them in a postal box or hand them to a postal employee. E-filing is the most secure way to file, as fewer people handle the data.
The tips above will help you avoid identity theft associated with tax refunds. If you would like more preventive tips, go to irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection. Be safe and keep your tax refunds safe!
By now you have probably hear about the Heartbleed bug that may have compromised your online identity. You may have even been contacted by online services like Google, Yahoo, or governmental bodies explaining any affects Heartbleed has on their systems.
In a nut shell, Heartbleed is a bug that allows your personal information to be stolen online. We have physical tools to secure our property and valuables from thieves. We can lock our doors and windows. We can uses sensors and video cameras to keep our belongings safe.
Protecting our digital identifies is far more difficult. It can take years before your stolen identify is uncovered. By then the damage has been done. It can take many months to resolve the financial issues caused by a stolen identity.What can you do about the Heartbleed bug? Here are few suggestions.
When large providers like Google and Paypal send you information about the Heartbleed bug make sure you follow their directions. Some credit card companies are now automatically doing a monthly credit check on your accounts to catch stolen identity quickly. You can use online programs to detect if any of your passwords have been accessed. Continue to check your bank and credit card statements on a monthly basis.
Below is a short video that provides additional actions you can take to make your personal information secure from the Heartbleed Bug.
5 Testimonials from Long Term Customers…My mother always told me, “Never brag. Let your actions speak for you.” In business, repeat customers say a great deal about the quality of a business. Here are 5 customer testimonials about Protection Concepts and what it means to these long term customers.
Great monitoring service, Great company. I have used Protection Concepts for the last three homes that I have owned and the response time of the monitoring company they use is great. (They have all been false alarms Thank GOD.) The installers have all been professional and I think I have met every installer. Good company and great prices. Angelsent.
Great Customer Service and Friendly Personnel are always helpful, knowledgeable and truthful. The product and service have been great. Been using them for almost 10 years. SatisfiedCustomer 7677.
Best Home Security System. I was referred to Protection Concepts in 2008 by a friend. I was nervous at first to give it a try, but I’m so glad I did. I love this security company. “It’s the best.” I have haven’t had any complaints. Not only to they have a great response time, but their monthly fee is amazing. Once again, I must say, “I love this company,” And would recommend their services to any and every one in need. Cbrown11.
Continuous Great Service. I’ve been with Protection Concepts for over 10 years and would not think of going anywhere else. I would recommend this company to anyone seeking a reliable security company. Smokes.
Much better than my old alarm company! Great customer service. Installation was right on time, very professional and they did a great job! I would recommend Protection Concepts. Concepts NO.
Give us a call so you too can experience the quality and security from Protection Concepts.