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What Happens to Your Digital Assets when You Die?

 Posted on February 07, 2014 in Digital Estate Plan

digital assets IMAGEWhen most people think of estate planning, they think of items such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate, furniture, jewelry, etc. But what happens to a person's virtual property - or digital assets - when they die? An article in the Huffington Post discusses digital assets and what people should consider when planning their estate.

There are many items that fall under a person's digital assets, including:

  • Emails;
  • Social network accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as all the content posted on these sites;
  • Digital photos and videos;
  • Songs;
  • Ebooks;
  • PayPal account.

According to a survey conducted by McAfee, the average internet user has about $37,000 in digital assets. Most of those assets are contained in unprotected digital devices.

Currently, there really aren't any laws that govern what happens to digital assets when someone dies without a will that clearly outlines who should receive those assets. So it's important to make sure you leave clear instructions on who should own those assets.

Having a clause in your will that gives specific instructions to the executor of the will ensures that person will be able to access those accounts and handle them accordingly. Leave a list of each of your accounts/assets and their passwords, as well as clear instructions on who gets access.

Another option is a digital assets trust. There is a legal argument that says that user accounts for digital assets are licenses that are no longer valid once the user dies. This would mean that the permission you grant to access those accounts would not be valid. However, by creating a digital asset trust, the beneficiary can still legally access those accounts under trust law.

Another option is using an online service that allows you to store passwords and account information (all encrypted) and allows beneficiaries to retrieve the information upon your death.

Estate planning is too important to risk not having a qualified lawyer helping you ensure that your exact wishes will be carried out upon your death. Contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today.

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