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Digital Assets 101: How to Account for Digital Assets in Estate Plans

Digital assets are a popular topic and an ever-important aspect of estate planning with today’s digital age. Even simple accounts such as Facebook and Twitter have tremendous transferable value to beneficiaries. However, beneficiaries and clients alike believe that merely sharing a password or access gives the beneficiaries the rights to the account. Ironically, this may constitute a violation of the law if this is how a digital asset is handled in an estate. It is important to understand the transferability, the value and how to provide instructions for transfer.

When planning for digital assets in an estate plan, it is important to help your clients identify their digital assets. Certainly, the best place to start is with an inventory. Try asking them if they have some of the popular digital assets and explaining the intrinsic value to the beneficiaries. Once they have a comprehension of the value, they are more likely to identify digital assets they own. While they may not initially see value in digital asset planning, photos, videos and stories go a long way in legacy planning. Helping clients realize the value of legacy planning can assist with digital asset planning.

After taking inventory, you will have to familiarize yourself with some of the policies of a particular digital asset. Digital assets can be transferred in similar ways to normal assets. Some will allow the account holder to appoint a legacy person and some need specific language in wills or trusts to transfer the digital asset. The only caveat is that some assets (unlike liquid and tangible assets) are not considered property and simply cannot be transferred. Most of this occurs in loyalty reward programs.

One of the most popular digital assets is Facebook. The reason for its popularity is because of the memories it holds. A user can appoint a legacy sponsor to handle the account once someone has passed. The user can also choose to delete the account. The challenge here is similar to that of a beneficiary designated account, someone must be chosen prior to death. Once someone dies and Facebook finds out they memorialize the account. This basically freezes the account and provides no access. Just like setting beneficiary designations (and revisiting them), digital assets that have legacy access should have those designations set and revisited periodically.

Loyalty reward programs are equally as popular. While most are not that friendly within an estate, some have clauses that can be accounted for in legal documents. Let’s take American Airlines. American Airlines has some language in its AAdvantage program terms and conditions which does not specifically allow transfer after death, but the airline gives itself a “loophole” to transfer the miles after approved legal documents have been submitted. Accounting for specific language in estate documents can be vital in transferring a specific digital asset with significant value. This is an excellent example accounting for digital assets within a will or trust document.

Digital assets can be tricky when accounting for them in an estate plan. The key is to take proper inventory, gather some familiarity or help and account for transfer. The great news is, this is an excellent conversation starter, a differentiator in practice and a way to provide great value to your clients. In the digital age we are in, digital assets are becoming more important in estate planning. Take the time to learn how to account for them in estate plans, it will be well worth it.


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Scott Huff is the CEO of Yourefolio.


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Two Ways Planners Can Increase Their Value Proposition

A recent study by Capgemini revealed that, despite robust portfolio returns, only 55.5 percent of high-net-worth investors feel a strong connection to their planners. If returns are on the rise, then where are planners falling flat?

We have recently experienced one of the longest bull markets in history (which despite recent market events, experts say is not yet at its end), and not only have investors been used to steady returns, they have continued to move toward indexing to get those returns at a lower cost. The reality is that investor satisfaction is less about market returns and more about the entire value the financial planner provides. The financial services profession is as impacted by technology, demographics and value provided as any other economic sector.

If you don’t continue to evolve your business model by creating more value for customers, you won’t sustain growth or even achieve the same level of success. However, some planners are resistant to making the changes necessary to enhance their business model and increase the loyalty of their clients because their existing model is what made them successful in the first place.

Our profession continues to be dominated by baby boomer planners, who are generally more resistant to adopting integrated technologies that can provide scale to their business and greater freedom to focus on client acquisition and relationships. Generation X and millennial planners, on the other hand, are proactively seeking out new technologies and ways to achieve stronger connections with their clients.

Planners who focus only on asset allocation as a core competency are most likely falling short of the broader value clients now expect and are willing to pay for. To improve their business models, planners should consider the following:

1.) Emphasize financial planning aimed at providing economic wellness, fulfillment and confidence—and the risk-adjusted strategies that can help clients get there.

While asset allocation is a key component of the wealth management process, it shouldn’t stand on its own as a planner’s core value proposition. Planners must shift their perspective and offer clients what they’re really looking for.

The need for value-add services, such as estate and tax planning, is being driven by the impending “Great Wealth Transfer,” as roughly $30 trillion is expected to switch hands from baby boomers to their heirs over the next 30 to 40 years, according to Accenture. Right now, most of these assets still rest with baby boomers but they are increasingly transitioning to spouses, Generation X and millennials.

Getting younger investors in the doors of your business starts with understanding how they view money. Remember that since many newer investors acutely felt the impact of the Great Recession at a formative period in their lives, they may have a greater emotional attachment to money than their parents. This has manifested as a strong tendency toward risk avoidance and a desire to focus on maintaining wealth rather than growing it.

Planners should therefore offer services and counsel that cater to this mindset, relating to clients on a personal level rather than just finding an appropriate asset allocation.

2.) Adopt and implement the types of financial technologies that investors are demanding in order to track their wealth.

As predicted, the advent of robo-advisers did not put financial planners out of business, but this technology has opened an important dialogue about the value a planner provides to the modern investor.

We live in an age when on-demand services like Amazon Prime and Uber have become the new normal, and financial services are no exception. Investors today want constant access to their accounts, so planners risk extinction if they continue to manage client relationships with a yellow pad and quarterly phone calls. Modern clients demand a digital portal where they can easily access their money and your advice 24-7.

Many planners are hesitant to adopt this technology because they fear it will diminish the need for their role, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Clients might enjoy the ease of access a portal provides for quickly updating beneficiary designations, but when faced with a significant event like a death in the family, they will turn to you for professional guidance. No computer will ever be able to provide trusted counsel for complicated personal scenarios.

As a planner, understand that your greatest value-add may not be having a hand in every single touchpoint of your business. In fact, planners who focus on listening and serving the overall financial well-being of their clients, while delegating non-essential tasks to technology, will build the stronger connections necessary to increase client satisfaction.

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As president and chief executive officer of Kestra Financial, James Poer is dedicated to helping independent financial advisers fulfill client goals through a unique integration of technology and service. Kestra Financial serves independent financial advisory firms with varying business affiliations, including independent registered investment advisers (RIAs) and hybrid advisers.

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6 Steps to Take ASAP After Your Content Goes Viral

Your firm just received a big shoutout in a major publication, and traffic to your site is spiking. How do you make the most of it? Take these six steps if you go viral when you least expect it.

“My article/post/video/project went viral! …now what?”

I have seen some variation of this question over and over again since I’ve been working in the financial advisory space.

It’s the marketing lottery: you randomly put out a piece of content here or there. Maybe a fired-up tweet. An inspired post. A well thought out article that the editor for MarketWatch agreed to publish.

And then, BOOM. It’s a huge press hit and it feels like the Internet—or at least a relevant part of it—is going crazy for this piece of content that you created. This is your 15 minutes of Internet fame. You’re in the spotlight. Your firm is the news. Everyone is talking (or tweeting) your name.

And just as soon as it happens, it’s gone. The crickets return and you’re left wondering, “Wait—where did everybody go?”

That’s the normal progression, anyway, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can actually leverage a massive press hit, if you’re proactive instead of reactive.

This Is Why You Need (Ongoing) Content

A steady drumbeat of content will make an enormous difference when you receive a big spike of attention from a press feature or other flow of concentrated attention to your brand.

Without a steady stream of consistent, high-quality content on your site (or on third-party sites, social media, and so on—whatever other channels you use), “going viral” in this sense is just going to be your 15 minutes of fame.

You’ll see an uptick in traffic. You might get a few more inquiries about your services. But that will die down. And it will nosedive fast, because news cycles move quickly. Editors, reporters, influencers and audiences will be quick to move on to the next thing.

And there is always a next thing waiting to nab the spotlight and leave you behind.

This is why you need content marketing. A huge feature or amazing press coverage becomes more “sticky” if you have a strong foundation of content to support it, and a system already in place to:

  1. Capture visitors from increases in web traffic; and
  2. Nurture those contacts over time and stay top of mind for them after their initial curiosity dies down.

But What If Your Huge Press Hit Already Happened?

That’s all well and good if you’re reading this before you received your huge press hit. But what if you’ve come here seeking advice because you’re in the middle of a massive traffic influx thanks to a great feature?

I hate to burst your bubble, but unless you had that content marketing strategy and machine in place, you might be out of luck this time around. Reactivity is not a great tactic when it comes to content marketing and organic PR.

Here’s the to-do item you need to put on your list immediately: Make a quick inbound marketing strategy and then implement it in a way that you can stick with. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, and it doesn’t mean you need to blog once a week or do anything you feel is unsustainable.

What you do need is a steady stream of messaging that publishes to your chosen channels if you want to best leverage future press hits.

How to Make the Most of Your Next Round of PR

Here’s a quick project you can take on this weekend so that you’re prepared for the next round of publicity you may receive: Create a highly optimized landing page that’s intended to convert brand-new site visitors.

These are exactly the people you get from major press coverage: people who have never heard of you before and are seeking more information. They’re coming in because they’re intrigued, but they want to learn more. Meet that need and give them a single, concise explanation of who you help and how you add value via a useful landing page full of compelling copy.

Create that page now! Then, whenever you work with a writer or reporter or member of the press, give them the link to that page (it could be www.YourFirmName.com/Welcome or something similar). If you’re providing quotes for a major story or high-profile publication, make a specific ask that they include the link to your page.

You want to point any potential traffic to a very specific page that gives everything a first-time, new-to-your-brand visitor needs to stay engaged (rather than just bouncing off if they follow a generic link back to your main site).

6 Emergency Measures to Take If You Go Viral Without a Plan

Still, I think most people start asking, “How do I make the most of this press?” after they receive it. If that’s you right now, implement these emergency measures:

  1. Get an opt-in form on your site now. Prioritize an exit intent pop-up, which will help prevent some of that bounce rate attrition. A slide in might work well for visitors who were more engaged, but didn’t reach out to you directly on their own—at least you’ll snag their contact info.
  2. Share your press hit on every channel you can access. Blast it on social media, through email campaigns, in groups you are part of and so on. (Bonus: try using Snip.ly when you share the link!)
  3. Get other people to share your press hit. Can you share this in forums, groups or communities? Who in your contacts or network would benefit from sharing this with their audience? Give them the link and make the ask. Leverage your existing relationships.
  4. Identify other relevant outlets. Reach out to publications or websites where this topic would be relevant and contact their editors with something like, “Just worked on this with [big name journalist who gave you this press hit], here’s the link. I’d love to share more on this topic because I think it’s something your audience would appreciate being made aware of. Can I write an article for you?” or “Would you like to do an interview on this?” or “What’s the best way that I could share my advice with your audience?”
  5. Say thanks to the original source. Send an email to the editor, writer or influencer who initially gave you the press boost and say thanks. Also, offer to help him or her or other reporters they know anytime because you’re passionate about [whatever you got featured on] and really believe in helping people.
  6. Spin your own content off your viral hit. You could summarize the piece and post it to LinkedIn or other social networks (and maybe even boost that post you create with a little bit of ad money). Beyond that, you might want to figure out a way to leverage paid social advertisements around the content that went viral—or find other creative ways to share it broadly.

At the very least, you now have something useful to use when you pitch new stories you hope go viral as well. Whether you’re submitting a speaker submission, podcast guest spot, a guest column or some other big feature, you could include the link to your viral hit as an example of your take on the topic or as proof of how you’re an expert on this subject.

But the bottom line? Don’t just rely on emergency measures. Get a comprehensive marketing strategy in place to make sure you’re proactive about this kind of opportunity moving forward, rather than being forced to be reactive.

Editor’s note: A version of this blog post appeared here

 Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.