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Will Your Estate Have a Password Problem?

We live in the digital age. Having online access to investments is a great convenience. But the downside is that they can create a very difficult situation for a surviving spouse or executor trying to find the deceased’s assets.

What is the first thing you are told about any password? Don’t write it down. This can create unintended consequences for an executor who needs access to each account in order to marshal the assets and eventually distribute those assets to the heirs or trustees based on the language contained in the will.

When the founder and CEO of a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, QuadrigaCX, died unexpectedly, nobody else had the password to the exchange’s cold storage locker. That cut off access to investors’ $190 million in cryptocurrency.  Those investors may never see their funds again. This is a an eye-opening example of how the security system designed to keep hackers out of an account can work against the owners of funds.

Estate administration in the digital age requires having a strategy to share passwords to your computer, email and online accounts. Without that, things quickly get complicated.

Option #1 Give your passwords to a trusted family member.

This is probably the easiest, but least secure way. They will need passwords to access your computer or smartphone. They will also need a password to access your email — which is where electronic financial statements are traditionally sent. This creates a potential security issue and also doesn’t provide the trusted person with access to each individual financial platform, which would require each of those passwords to be written down or somehow saved and communicated to the trusted person. Many computer operating systems now save passwords to frequently visited websites, so it is possible that if a trusted person had access to your computer, they may also be able to gain access to your financial accounts.

Option #2 Write down and place all passwords in a safe deposit box.

Your executor or guardian/attorney-in-fact through a power of attorney can access your safe deposit box and your passwords to access your computer, email and financial platforms. This option is somewhat safer than simply writing down and providing passwords to a trusted friend or spouse. But this means you have to be diligent about updating the password list. People rarely keep such printed out lists updated. But if you’re disciplined enough to do this, this might work.

Option #3 Use a digital wallet.

A digital wallet is the most secure and by far the most recommended way to safely and securely store passwords. Like a real wallet, a digital wallet keeps track of all your passwords across all your devices and does so in an encrypted file in the cloud. With this, the only hurdle is the password with which you access the digital wallet.

This would require that you keep a record of the master password somewhere, or perhaps you can agree with your spouse or trusted friend on a pattern of passwords. That could be anything that the two of you can easily remember, along with perhaps a few other characters. It will need to be something that can be remembered and not written down. Writing down and saving passwords should be avoided if at all possible.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she ensures you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why Myrna offers a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to find out how to get this session at no charge.

Call (813) 514-2946 to schedule your Planning Session.

Overlooking This Basic Part of Your Estate Plan Can Be Tragic

The recent death of the CEO of QuadrigaCX, a major cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, demonstrates a basic, yet often-overlooked, principal of effective estate planning:

If you become incapacitated or die, if your heirs don’t know how to find or access your assets, those assets are as good as gone. Indeed, it’s as if those assets never existed at all.

In the case of QuadrigaCX’s owner Gerald Cotten, the lost assets were purportedly worth $145 million. That represented the vast majority of the company’s crypto holdings.

The hefty sum effectively vanished after Cotten died without leaving instructions for how to access the digital currency’s security passcodes. The crypto holdings were owned by some 115,000 clients, who used the exchange to buy and store their digital coins.

An untimely death and a cold wallet

Cotten, age 30, died suddenly while traveling in India during December 2018. In January 2019, QuardigaCX filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from creditors, including all of the customers with crypto stored in the company’s electronic vault.

Ironically, the digital assets were lost in part because Cotten followed a security practice designed for protection. Most of the company’s cryptocurrency holdings were stored in a “cold wallet,” or one that isn’t connected to the Internet. The use of a cold wallet is a common practice, since “hot wallets,” or those connected to the internet, are a frequent target of hackers.

This typically would’ve been a smart move, but Cotten reportedly stored the cold wallet on an encrypted laptop that only he knew how to get into.

According to Cotten’s widow, Jennifer Roberston, following multiple searches, she has been unable to find the passwords that will open the laptop and provide access to the company’s cold wallet. QuadrigaCX even brought in IT experts to get into Cotten’s laptop, but so far, all attempts have been unsuccessful.

Canadian financial authorities and independent auditors are currently investigating the case. Some have even speculated that Cotten’s death was faked as part of a nefarious scheme connected to QuadrigaCX. Whether it ultimately turns out to be a simple case of carelessness or something more malicious, the lesson remains the same:

From cryptocurrency to safety deposit boxes and everything in between, your family must know how to find and access every asset you own, otherwise it could be lost forever.

In fact, there’s a total of more than $58 billion of unclaimed assets from across the country held by the State Department of Unclaimed Property. Much of that massive sum got there because someone died and their family didn’t know they owned the asset.

Incomplete estate planning

Another puzzling fact is that upon first glance, Cotten was diligent in his estate planning. Indeed, Cotten named Roberston as his estate’s executor and left her instructions for the complete distribution of his assets, including a private jet and multiple properties in Canada.

He even left behind $100,000 for the care of his dogs. But he forgot to forget to include the passcodes that would unlock his company’s vast crypto assets. Most people holding crypto assets haven’t taken the proper steps to ensure their heirs will know how to access these assets upon their incapacity or death.

Given this, if you own any digital currency like Bitcoin, be sure to call us to make certain these assets have been correctly included in your estate plan. Indeed, if you have any assets that might potentially be overlooked in the event of your incapacity or death, contact us now.

Easily avoidable

What makes this loss so tragic is that it could have been so easily avoided. Whether you own a lot (or very little), your plan must include a comprehensive inventory all of your assets. And as Cotten’s case shows, this inventory must also include a detailed instructions for how your heirs can find and access every asset.

At our firm, a comprehensive asset inventory like this is a standard part of every estate plan we create. And whether it’s cryptocurrency, social media accounts, or online payment platforms like PayPal, this inventory will include detailed instructions for accessing all of your digital assets and their passcodes. Contact us today to get started with a Planning Session.

Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty doesn’t just draft documents, she helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why our firm offers a Planning Session. The Planning Session helps you get more financially organized than ever and helps you make the best choices for the people you love.  Start by calling us today to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to learn how to get this $500 session for free.

What Happens To Your Facebook Account When You Die?

Will your Facebook account haunt your loved ones after you’re gone? Without proper planning, your post-mortem Facebook presence can haunt the loved ones you leave behind, with harmful results.

If you’re active on social media, Facebook is probably a big part of your life.  Does social media seem trivial to you? If you think about it, your Facebook  account is basically a virtual diary of your daily life, making it a key part of your legacy—and one you’ll likely want to protect.

Since about 8,000 Facebook users die every day, the company has created a few options for dealing with your account once you’re gone. While it’s possible for you to take care of this on your own, many people are working with legal professionals like us to incorporate these digital assets into their overall estate plan to ensure their legacy is properly preserved and protected.

Here are your options:

  1. Do nothing.

Unless Facebook is notified of your death, it assumes you’re still alive, and your profile remains active indefinitely. While this might not seem like a big deal, your profile will continue to be included in Facebook searches, “People You May Know” suggestions, and birthday reminders.

Your friends and family likely won’t want to be constantly reminded of your absence, and even worse, ex-friends and/or trolls will be able to post potentially hurtful messages on your timeline.

  1. Delete the account.

In your settings, notify Facebook that you’d like to have your account permanently removed from its servers upon your passing. Alternatively, a friend, family member, or your executor can make the same request after your death. This will completely delete your profile and all of its associated content from Facebook for good.

Also, one of these individuals can request that your account’s content be downloaded and saved before the profile is deleted. Content that’s eligible for download includes wall posts, photos, videos, profile info, events, and your friend list. But Facebook won’t allow any third-party to access or download your personal messages or login information.

  1. Memorialize the account.

Facebook lets you designate a family member or friend as a “legacy contact” to manage your memorialized account. This contact will be allowed to pin a final message to the top of your timeline, announcing your death or providing funeral information. The contact can also respond to new friend requests and update your cover and profile photos. The legacy contact won’t be able to log in as you or see any of your private messages.

Preserve your legacy.

Since social media and other digital property are such an important part of your life, you should work with us as to ensure that these assets are protected by your overall estate plan. We can help you name a digital executor, who can quickly and easily manage your Facebook account and other social media upon your death. We can also help you inventory all of your other digital assets and make certain they pass to your loved ones seamlessly.

Furthermore, through our Family Wealth Legacy Interviews, we allow you to create a customized recording, sharing your values, stories, and life lessons with the loved ones you leave behind. Our estate plans include a Family Wealth Legacy Interview component. That’s because your estate planning is about more than just your STUFF. It’s also about your real wealth: your values, your insights and your experiences. Contact us today to learn more.

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session,  during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at (813) 514-2946  to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

 

 

 

Crypto Currency – What Happens When You’re Not Around?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Bitcoin. What you may not know is what “cryptocurrency” means, and how it affects your estate planning. Maybe you’ve even got yourself some Bitcoin, but haven’t given thought to what would happen to your digital currency in the event of your death or incapacity. As a new technology, cryptocurrency can be a bit confusing, and few law firms are talking about this yet.  But we are!

Today’s article will dive in with some initial thoughts, and then we’ll get deeper in future articles.

  • If you had purchased $100 of Bitcoin in 2010, you would have over $4,000,000 today.  Let that sink in.
  • There are now over 800 digital currencies available, though Bitcoin is the most well-known.
  • Each one operates a bit differently, and with a different purpose.
  • What they all have in common is that they are digital currencies, in the form of “tokens” that you can now buy (or invest in) and in some cases use to exchange for goods and services.

For example, more and more providers of goods and services are accepting Bitcoin as payment method, just as they would cash or credit. A few are even  accepting the lesser known currency called Ripple (XRP).

For today, I want to cover what you need to have in place to ensure that if you become incapacitated or die, and you are holding digital currency, you will be prepared.

Unfortunately, if you have not planned for the transfer of your digital currency at the time of your incapacity or death, it could literally be lost to the ethers. And, if you invested in Bitcoin back in the day before it got popular, that could potentially be millions of dollars lost to your loved ones.

There are two things for you to consider if you are holding digital currency:

  1. Do your loved ones, or whoever you would like to leave your digital currency to, know that it exists?
  2. Do they know how to access it and cash it in or hold onto it?

If you are holding your currency in an exchange, such as coinbase, with 2-factor authentication, it could be very difficult for your loved ones to access your currency. (And if your loved ones can’t access your iPhone, there’s other problems too (see our article about digital access)! We offer our clients access to a cloud-based digital account administration system.  Having that in place would allow the executor of your estate to handle all digital accounts, not just crypto accounts. But if you prefer the traditional route, store that information offline.

Here’s the thing, if you lose those codes, or your loved ones can’t find them, it’s the same as all of your currency being gone.

You can read more about the different storage options for cryptocurrency here.

Bottom line: if you have cryptocurrency and you want your loved ones to have it after you are gone, you should probably call us so we can make sure it’s not lost upon your incapacity or death. As one of the first law firms actively tackling the crypto-currency issue, we want to make sure our clients are ahead of the curb on this as well.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.