In an interview with Dell’s Tech Page One, estate planning attorney, Gary Altman, emphasizes the importance of advanced planning for business owners, particularly in a digital age.
“Today, business succession planning is multifaceted, taking into account more than just who will take over a business or company,” says Altman. “In response to our technologically advanced world, we now include planning for one’s digital estate.”
With so much of a business’s operations being run and stored online - financial accounts, passwords, social media content, etc. - business owners need a clear plan. Who will receive access to the business’s digital assets? How will they gain access and for how long should they have it? In the event that the owner passes away, “These details should be spelled out in advance,” says Altman.
The digital assets and how to access them can be done as simply as a password-protected Word or Excel document on a secure computer. Altman notes, “There are several companies offering various forms of data security and even companies that store passwords and provide access to those authorized.”
That being said, Altman says, “The first step is to meet with an experienced estate and business planning attorney to discuss what the owner’s intentions are.”
The bottom line? “The only way to ensure a smooth transition of data to successors is to have a legally documented plan, as well as to authorize someone else access to the full range of business data,” says Altman. “The plan will give clear authority to the chosen successor and explain what this person needs to do.”