For a growing number of grieving family members and heirs, an unknown portion of their inheritance and sentimental items may literally hide in the cloud. WebCease, Inc. is the leading provider of digital asset discovery services, offering a first-of-its-kind solution for probate attorneys and consumers across the nation that addresses the challenge of identifying and locating digital assets after someone has died.
WebCease offers a highly accurate discovery report that helps navigate the tangled web of someone’s online life. “This is an emerging problem. As the number of online accounts grow, people aren’t necessarily including these account details in their estate planning, increasing the burden on the executor,” said WebCease CEO and founder, Glenn Williamson. “Our primary mission is to provide a trusted, easy way for people to identify these digital assets and help them navigate the process of capturing these valuable online assets. It also reduces the risk of identity theft.”
Certain digital assets (partial list here) can be easily overlooked or even lost during the settlement of an estate. These online accounts are a new class of personal property that may have monetary worth in addition to sentimental value. Digital asset discovery has become a necessity in today’s digital age to be confident that various accounts have been located. For example:
▪ Internet World Stats website reports that in 2012, over 245 million people in the U.S. used the Internet.
▪ According to a survey by security giant McAfee, the average Internet user has $37,000 in unprotected digital assets.
▪ comScore reports that in 2013 online spending increased by 14 percent, outpacing total consumer retail spending in the U.S.
▪ Memberships in loyalty programs have increased more than 26 percent over the past two years to 2.65 billion, according to the 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census. This translates to tens of billions of dollars in rewards.
“Each year, more of our business, financial, and personal lives moves into the digital world,” says James Lamm, a third-generation Minnesota estate planning attorney and a principal in Gray Plant Mooty’s Trust, Estate & Charitable Planning group. “Traditionally, when a person became incapacitated or died, the fiduciary would go to the person’s home, look through the paper records, and watch the mail for bills, account statements, and other important information. Today, with online accounts, records, and transactions, it takes a significant amount of time and effort to find everything.”
“In the old days, people passed down scrapbooks, mementos, picture albums, and musty files of old newspaper clippings,” adds Gerry W. Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law. “But now, many of us keep this type of property in electronic form that will disappear if a person’s survivors cannot locate and access it.”
As part of WebCease’s service, they provide information on the available options for closing or memorializing social media profiles and other online accounts according to the individual site’s terms and conditions. Each year, the identities of millions of deceased Americans are stolen. “As long as accounts are active, there’s a risk that a hacker could mine the account for personal information,” notes Williamson.
WebCease, Inc. (webcease.com) helps executors, trustees and administrators find online accounts that are digital assets for the estate of the deceased. WebCease’s digital asset discovery services identifies the active online accounts and instructs on the different options for retrieval, closure or memorialization in accordance with the policies of each site. WebCease also helps reduce the risk of identity theft.