Ask yourself – what will happen to your Twitter account when you pass on? What about your Facebook account and Pinterest Board? What about your photos shared on a variety of social media platforms? These are important questions that need to be answered when planning your estate because your digital assets need to be part of that plan.
Think about this – between 2012 and 2014, humans generated more data than in all of human history and the pace of that growth is only accelerating.
Law Needs to Catch Up with Groundbreaking Technology
There is an established set of laws for managing hard copy documents and other physical property (e.g., real estate, automobiles, etc.) when someone passes on. However, laws and regulations concerning the effective management of digital assets is far more vague. Courts have only recently began attempting to figure out how to handle assets based on digital technology.
Trend in the Courts Leaves Individuals in the Lurch
So far, in most cases involving the ownership of digital asserts, courts have held that the information is controlled by the companies that store the information. For example, Google retains ownership over the Gmail account of your loved one.
There is a draft of uniform laws that many legal organizations have encouraged all 50 states to adopt. The uniform laws would enable people to specify in their wills that the executor of their estate can access their email account(s) and social media account(s). So far, around forty state legislatures have adopted it and seven more are considering it in 2018.
However, the uniform set of laws fails to specify exactly how executor access should occur. So, for the moment, an executor will need to contact the company that owns the digital platform to determine how to get into the decedent’s email and social media accounts.
Tips For Preparing Your Digital Estate Plan
You need to prepare yourself for the “digital afterlife.” In order to get prepared, you need to state, in writing, what you want to happen to your digital assets, according to The Conversation.com. This would entail creating a list of the accounts in your name. Next, determine which accounts you want your executor to be able to access and which should just be deleted, and which should be managed. Consider having a one-pager that details access information for these accounts and keep it in a safe place.
You also need to check with the companies whose online services you utilize to see if they offer their own unique method to transfer digital assets when a subscriber or member passes on. For example, Google has a method for its users to indicate what they want to have happen to their account if they don’t access it for several months. Facebook offers a similar service.
Take Action Now
Digital assets are the proverbial shoe box of photos in today’s society. They are the letters and other heirlooms that carry significance because they are unique to you. Effective planning can preserve your legacy in its digital form and ease the management of your estate after your passing.