Digital Estate Planning – What Happens to Your Digital Content After Death?

DuPage County estate planning attorneysAmericans store everything from selfies and family photos to digital music and stock photography online. What happens, though, when the content owner dies?

Sometimes nothing; family cannot access it and it either stays where it was stored or is eventually deleted or removed. Then there are situations in which the owner knew that digital content had to be handled differently than physical assets. In these cases, the content can be downloaded, transferred, or otherwise used and accessed by a named fiduciary. The following can help you learn more about digital fiduciaries, including why they are important and how you can name one to handle your digital assets after death.

What is a Digital Fiduciary?

Digital fiduciaries are individuals who have been granted legal access to a decedent's digital content. This idea might be concerning for some, but a digital fiduciary cannot simply use and access content at their discretion. Instead, they are restricted to access and actions that are outlined in the decedent's estate plan.

So, for example, if you have online journals that you do not want your spouse to read but would like them to have access to family photos, you can grant them access to the accounts where your photos are stored. You would not share the information for your online journals.

Understanding Why a Digital Fiduciary is Needed

When Congress enacted laws to protect the content of individuals, they did not foresee the struggles that heirs and families would face when attempting to gain access to even simple information, such as an online music account or online photos. Of course, it is possible to outline your wishes for digital content in a will. However, few people update their wills as often as they update their passwords to online accounts. This can create all sorts of problems for heirs, especially since content companies are not required to honor a will.

Granting Access to Your Digital Fiduciary

To help you and your family make the most of your estate plan, Illinois has recently created an online tool that can provide your heirs with real-time information on your accounts. You simply input the login and password information that coincides with the accounts you want them to have access to and leave out the accounts that you wish to restrict them from seeing. Further, you can use your will to provide a clear outline of how and when the content should be used or accessed. Just remember to update the information contained within the tool each time you change a password or have a new account that you want your fiduciary to access.

Contact Our DuPage County Estate Planning Lawyers

Whether you need assistance setting up a trust, will, or digital fiduciary access, Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC is the firm to call. Dedicated and experienced, we can guide you through the estate planning process to ensure you have considered all your assets, including digital ones. Schedule your consultation with our >DuPage County estate planning lawyers by calling 630-665-2500 today.


The First Digital Asset Law Goes into Effect

digital asset, digital asset law, digital estate plan, DuPage County estate planning attorney, digital property, online musical libraries, kindle collections, social media accounts, computer source codes, software licensesYears ago, when a person passed away, personal property and documentation were tangible items. Items such as book and record collections, photographs, and important paperwork were all items that could be physically touched and handed to the person who was inheriting them.

In today's electronic world, however, many people own a multitude of digital assets and records. The question thus becomes, who is the owner of these this digital property when the owner of record dies? What happens to online musical libraries, kindle collections, social media accounts, and cloud storage files?

Many courts have struggled with that answer in the past, but the state of Delaware may have come up with a solution with a first of its kind digital asset law. Called the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act, the law provides a way for families to access a loved one's digital assets should the person become incapacitated or die. The law allows access to these assets by fiduciaries or heirs of a person's estate.

Delaware lawmakers based the bill on model legislation that was developed earlier this year by the Uniform Law Commission. The commission urged all states to adopt the model in order to have uniform laws governing digital assets across the country. But so far, only Delaware has passed legislation. This means that the law only applies to wills which are governed by the state of Delaware. However, this legislation could be passed in any other state, and is definitely important to consider. Only time will tell.

A person's digital property, including social media content, emails, video, audio, sounds, images, computer programs, software, computer source codes and software licenses, will all be covered in the new law. Currently, if a person has accounts with companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google or Yahoo, access to those accounts end upon the person's death. But the Delaware law changes that, stating, "A fiduciary with authority over digital assets or digital accounts of an account holder under this chapter shall have the same access as the account holder, and is deemed to (i) have the lawful consent of the account holder and (ii) be an authorized user under all applicable state and federal law and regulations and any end user license agreement."

Including your digital assets in with your estate planning is a fairly new idea, but one which people should begin to address. An experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney can help you decide the best course of legal action to take to ensure that all your assets, digital included, go to those desired. Contact us today.

Do You Have Digital Assets?

digital assets, DuPage County estate planning lawyer, digital estate planThe rise of the digital age makes estate planning all the more important, because there are new concerns and safeguards you should consider. Many records, memories, and assets are stored somewhere in the cloud and protected by passwords. If you were to pass away, your family might not even be aware of these assets, much less able to access them.

A study from McAfee indicates that the average consumer has over $37,000 in digital assets across several devices. What is a digital asset? This can include personal information, entertainment files, career records, and photo libraries, more and more of which are being stored online behind a password. The study had each individual assign an estimate to their digital assets, although nearly one-third of survey respondents indicated they did not use any kind of security protection at all.

Digital assets are now also frequently stored on smartphones and tablets, making threats of attack on these devices more and more popular. Malware attacks on Android devices alone have increased significantly in recent years. Consumers should be aware of the amount of information they have stored online in addition to developing a plan for its transfer, if needed.

The market is struggling to meet the needs of consumers interested in protection while enabling family members to access the data if the consumer were to pass away. Your passwords and connection information to these details should be stored securely in the event of an emergency. You can consult with your estate planning attorney to learn more about how to pass vital data on to loved ones if you pass away.

Your estate planning process should incorporate all of your assets, including digital ones. Make sure you have secured this information and generated a plan for family access down the road. Get started with your comprehensive plan today by contacting an Illinois estate planning attorney.