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Thorough estate planning: Have you considered your digital presence?

The odds are that you have a digital presence and that, moreover, it's sizable.

If you perhaps don't know exactly what such a presence signifies, we'll estimate a guess at Robertson, Oswalt & Associates that you can make a pretty fair guess.

Especially if you are a Facebook member.

Or send tweets (like someone you might have recently voted for does, with a vengeance).

Do you bank online? Find it more convenient to order goods and services through an Internet shopping platform than by making trips to a retail store? Send emails rather than letters?

If you answered "yes" to any other those questions, you probably responded affirmatively to most or even all of them.

In fact, notes the author of one recently penned estate planning article, "the average Internet user has 26 different accounts and 10 different passwords."

What happens to all that stuff -- to your aforementioned digital presence -- if you die?

Short answer: That largely depends on you, specifically your proactivity -- or lack thereof -- in addressing the matter before your passing.

If you've done nothing to alert selected third parties to the existence of your online presence and to take legal steps to grant one or more of them authority to access and manage your accounts, your online life could, well, sort of just float in place interminably,

And that would be a bad thing, of course, if your accounts contain valuable information, data, pictures and other things that you might reasonably wish were passed on to your heirs or other persons following your death.

You can get peace of mind on that point by listing all your accounts and passwords and taking some time to think about how you would want them managed if you weren't around to do so personally.

The above-cited estate planning article addressing online presence and the post-mortem management of online accounts recommends that "digital estate" planning centrally include the drafting of an explanatory letter or memo to accompany a will. It also suggests that one or more parties be designated as an online estate executor.

Experienced estate planning lawyers have become increasingly familiar in recent years with the challenges and opportunities linked with online accounts. Attorneys from a law firm that routinely represents individuals and families in estate-related matters can answer questions and provide counsel concerning the growing and progressively relevant realm of digital estate planning.

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