In recent years, the amount of time the population spends on digital devices and accessing online information has skyrocketed. Photos, medical documentation, frequent flier miles, music libraries, and other documents are all commonly stored online. Individual social media accounts can hold a significant amount of information as well. But what happens to our digital lives when our real lives are over?
It is probably no surprise that our digital presence lives on long after we are gone. Information we have saved to online platforms or digital devices might not necessarily be accounted for in an individual’s current plan for the distribution of their assets.
Your digital assets need to be included in your estate plan. It can be quite difficult to access a deceased person’s online account without the proper log in. It is recommended that you make arrangements for the executor of your will to gain access to your online information, whether that be accessing accounts, computers, or hard drives. This information should not be listed in your will, as wills become public documents after death. Instead, describe the location where the executor would be able to find the information to access your digital assets. What should be listed is language which gives lawful consent to providers to surrender your digital information to the named beneficiaries. For example, a beneficiary may be expressly granted authority to, “obtain full and complete access and control over the content of all digital assets, data, domain names, on-line storage accounts, web pages, email accounts and software programs owned or in which decedent has an interest as licensee at the time of his death.” You might consider a blanket authorization for all digital assets, or specific authorizations depending on what you do and do not want shared.
Even with your testamentary bequest of access to your digital life, executors and beneficiaries can still run into the problem of being unauthorized users. Unfortunately, this is an area of the law that state and federal legislatures have not yet caught up to societal needs. Check with the companies or organizations where you have information stored online to see how they handles the transfer of digital assets at death.
Wills, trusts, and financial power of attorney documents prepared by the attorneys at Lardiere McNair contain language which accounts for the disposition of digital assets. of If you have questions about estate planning, call Lardiere McNair at 614.534.1355 to set up your free consultation.
Victoria Smith is a Law Clerk at Lardiere McNair, LLC. To read more about our firm, please visit www.lmcounsel.com.
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