Digital assets are kind of the new topic in estate planning that everyone is talking about. There is good reason for this, of course, given that most of us have some form of online ownership. For some of us, there is a good deal of money tied up in online assets, which can include social media and email accounts, product images, photographs, office documents and spreadsheets, CAD files, music, and numerous other things.
More states are beginning to address digital assets by passing laws work them into estate planning. Most recently, Nevada passed a bill giving personal representatives the right to obtain a deceased person’s emails. California does not currently have any such laws, but proposals have been made. More and more states are expected to pass such laws as digital assets become more and more commonplace. Laws dealing with digital assets are rather limited, so that folks are left to take the bulk of such planning upon themselves.
Beyond that, a nonprofit association known as the Uniform Law Commission has taken steps to put draft model laws for states regarding the issue of digital assets. Such laws will, no doubt, provide a good deal of guidance to states as to how to deal with the issue. Even then, though, it is likely that this area of law will have to continue adapting with technology. And as we all know, technology can change very quickly.
Those who are concerned with how their digital assets will be handled upon their death should contact an experienced estate planning attorney to put a plan in place as soon as possible.
Source: Time, “States Seek A Way To Pass On Digital Accounts After You Die,” Katy Steinmetz, July 27, 2013.