The following is an article from the June 2021 issue of "Get Your Ducks in a Row" Carolina Family Estate Planning's free newsletter. You can read the rest of the issue, as well as back issues of our newsletter online at www.carolinafep.com/library/newsletters/ or subscribe for free at www.carolinafep.com/newsletter.cfm

Whenever I reminisce about the Fourth of July growing up, a bunch of fond memories come to mind. We would spend each Independence Day with my mom’s side of the family in Marine City, Michigan, where we’d watch a spectacular fireworks show. The Saint Clair River fireworks supposedly weren’t as spectacular as the show over the Detroit River, but between parking and traffic, it was a heck of a lot easier to get in and out of Marine City than it was to go downtown.

I remember a truckload of fried food. And while it didn’t occur to me back then, I’m sure the adults were taking the time to enjoy a drink or few. The midpoint of summer, the Fourth of July was a chance for both kids and adults to just sort of let loose and enjoy the festivities. Another memory that stands out is glowing sticks: the Fourth of July was the first time I’d ever seen them, and I remember being mesmerized by them. 

When I was a kid, the most exciting part of the Fourth of July was the fireworks. As I became a teenager, though, my mind and heart were set on spending some time under the twinkling lights, holding hands with my then-girlfriend. Through the years, the Fourth of July was always about food, fun, family, and America.

Even though priorities change as time goes on, the desire to capture memories certainly doesn’t. Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t nearly as easy to take and store a photo or video as it is today. Now, you can amass a trove of priceless photos in hard drives or in the cloud —memories that can be hard, if not impossible, for your family to retrieve if you pass away before making a plan for transferring those passwords and their location in the cloud.

Digital assets — those intangible possessions of yours stored on a computer or in the cloud — have become increasingly common over the past decade. However, since the development of the digital world has consistently outpaced the development of the laws that govern it, North Carolina didn’t have any sort of digital asset act until July of 2016. (Happy fifth anniversary, Digital Assets Act!)

Being proactive, at our firm, we’ve included digital asset provisions since 2014, and we updated our provisions to be in line with the latest laws. However, based on the prior plans we’ve reviewed for new clients, we know there are a lot of estate plans that don’t have any sort of provision addressing digital assets. It’s important to give your executor and power of attorney not only the legal authority, but also the instructions, locations, and access to the passwords to take care of any digital assets you might have. Our Personal Planning Portfolio makes it easy to organize this information for your loved ones.

If you have priceless memories of times with your family, whether on the Fourth of July or at any other time of the year, and your estate plan does not currently have a provision addressing digital assets, it might be time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney and update your estate plan. To schedule an appointment or answer any questions you may have about updating your plan, call (919) 500-7748.

Happy Fourth of July to you and your family!

Dan Bedard
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