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Helping You Navigate Complex Legal Issues

Consider digital assets as part of your estate plan

Gregory A. Lang

Minnesota residents thinking about their estate plan might want to start planning for their 'digital estate." With so many people storing so much data in various email accounts and social networking sites, transferring these digital assets has become a new area of estate planning. The failure to plan for the fate of digital assets could result in information being either lost or shared with people who were not supposed to see it.

Whether a person hopes that their musings on social media will continue to be shared after they pass or that all of their emails will be completely deleted, it has now become important to add Twitter and Facebook passwords to estate administration plans. In addition to providing an executor with access to digital assets, an estate plan should include express permission for the executor to administer the digital estate.

If an estate plan does not include provisions that cover digital assets, the family members of the deceased person may have a difficult time unlocking their online accounts. Many recent cases have highlighted the problem that grieving families face while they attempt to gain access to the emails of their deceased loved ones. One father who lost his son in Iraq had to fight a legal battle with Yahoo before he could finally view some of the last messages his son had written before he died.

An estate administrator who has been left in charge of someone's digital estate may have a difficult time with the job. An estate planning attorney could help an individual to sort through these digital mementos to ensure that they are handled with respect to the deceased person's precise wishes. The attorney could also help clients plan their digital estate by helping them draft clear instructions regarding the disposal of their digital inventory as well as documents naming a digital executor.

Source: Flip The Media, "I’ll Tweet When I’m Dead: Estate Planning in the Digital Age", Connie Rock, July 28, 2014

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