U.S. Trust, the private wealth management arm of Bank of America, today announced it has expanded its Financial Empowerment Program to address risks to family wealth in an online world. As part of the expanded program, U.S. Trust has developed interactive learning and discussion guides to help clients and their children or heirs protect the value of their digital assets, online reputation, privacy and security.
“From social media profiles to online banking and digital photos, virtually everyone today has a digital footprint that can have a profound effect on their personal, professional and financial lives,” said Chris Heilmann, U.S. Trust’s chief fiduciary executive. “Digital assets have value beyond their monetary worth and need a plan to protect them. Increasingly, our clients are asking for tools and advice to prepare themselves and the next generation from emerging risks. Managing digital assets is now an essential part of the modern wealth management and planning process.”
The U.S. Trust Financial Empowerment Program is a comprehensive set of educational resources and interactive learning tools on a range of topics from the principals of savings, investing and estate planning to sophisticated wealth structuring, credit and finance strategies. The program was developed to help clients’ family members prepare for receipt and stewardship of family money, with an eye toward the distinct circumstances and complexities that increased wealth can bring.
The expanded program was created based on client feedback and proprietary research that shed a light on deficiencies in digital asset estate planning and the need to address risk in a digital world. According to the 2013 Insights on Wealth and Worth 1, the latest of U.S. Trust’s annual studies of high net worth families:
- More than six in 10 (63 percent) high net worth individuals have not outlined wishes and instructions for their digital assets.
- Forty-five percent have not organized passwords for accessing digital accounts and files.
- Protecting digital assets: An overview of digital assets, including online personal, social, financial and business assets, and their monetary, sentimental and “good steward” value. Included is an in-depth exploration of trust and estate issues related to digital assets and privacy laws surrounding them, including ownership of and access to social media sites, photos, health records, loyalty programs, business intelligence and other confidential information.
- Managing online reputation: How and why online information, whether its self-posted or posted by friends, family, employees, the news media or other third parties, can affect everything from getting into the right school or job to business and legal dealings to personal relationships. Action steps provide ways to proactively monitor and manage online presence, protect and secure confidential Information and clear up mistakes or inaccuracies.
- Identity theft: How to recognize and avoid identity theft and fraud risks, such as computer and device hacking and phishing, dumpster diving, telemarketing schemes, charity scams and inheritance scams. The module includes actions steps for what to do if personal information is compromised or identity theft is suspected. In addition, a “Digital Inventory Worksheet” is available to aid in organizing and managing a digital footprint.