By some estimates, 92% of Americans will have an online presence by the age of two. As a result, an estate plan for digital assets, like movies, pictures, e-mail and even social media profiles, should be considered. Among the issues are access to digital assets and the steps to take in advance.
Access to Your Online Accounts
Access to digital assets after a death is largely determined by company policies, ex) Yahoo, Apple, google. These policies can vary significantly. Google allows users to designate how their data should be shared. On the other hand, Facebook has a more limited policy and will not provide login information. Facebook only allows accounts to be put into memorial status or deleted. Users should look at the specific policies for the services they use to identify what alternatives may be available to them.
Several states have taken steps to regulate access to digital assets, but there is no uniform policy. Without common policies, access is largely determined by individual company policies. Organizations, like the Uniform Law Commission, are working to develop uniform laws which could be adopted across the country to ensure common rules across states and providers.
What Steps Should Be Taken?
Estate planning for digital assets should be carefully considered. Below are some suggested steps:
1) Take Inventory of your Devices – Individuals should take state of all the devices they use, like computers, phones, tablets, which contain or store their information.
2) Identify the Size of Your Digital House – What services are you using?
3) Who Has Password Access – Passwords provide the critical access for families, personal representatives or trustees. A plan for relaying this information, whether by a secured list or otherwise, must be in place.
4) Instructions – Thought must be given on how accounts should be accessed, transferred or closed.
5) Authority – Authorizations should be granted to allow appropriate parties access to information.
As digital assets continue to grow in importance, laws and policies will undoubtedly change in response. Estate planning documents should be reviewed to keep up with these changes.
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