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Digital age poses new estate administration challenges

The logistics behind estate planning, in addition to administrating a will, are constantly in flux. This is often due to changing laws and tax rates, which can have a large impact on how one decides to distribute their property after they pass away. However, the digital age is posing unique challenges to the estate administration process that Nevada residents should be aware of.

According to a 2011 survey completed by the American Banker's Association, 57 percent of Americans age 55 and older prefer to do their banking online. This figure is up from just 20 percent a year earlier, illustrating how quickly Americans of all ages are turning to computers for many of their tasks. In addition to online bank accounts, many have email accounts, which may contain vital information. For self-employed individuals, these accounts may also hold details about their company and financial affairs.

Yet online banking, email and other web-based services have passwords that prevent other people from accessing them. While this is a convenience while one is alive, it can be a burden to one's descendants. Moreover, as there are no paper documents to rely upon with regards to online accounts, the surviving family members may not even be aware of some assets owned by the deceased.

For estate administration, the challenge of accessing online accounts can be a headache. Fortunately, many companies have polices that will allow a family member to gain access to a deceased user's account. In the event that the company does not, a court order from a Nevada or other state court may be necessary. Nonetheless, nothing beats taking the time during one's life to ensure that all their online accounts can be properly accessed after they pass away.

Source: Reuters, "Keep your digital life alive, after death," Marla Brill, Feb. 17, 2012

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