New Illinois Bill Addresses Digital Assets in Estate Planning

Illinois bill addresses digital assets, digital assets, Illinois Estate Planning LawyerA new bill has been introduced to the Illinois General Assembly that addresses what should be done with personal online accounts when a person passes away.

A deceased person's social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, email, as well as other online accounts, would all be considered physical assets and become part of a person's estate.

Senate Bill 1376 would allow the court to appoint a trustee who would then have access to the accounts in order to help settle a person's affairs. The bill currently has bipartisan support among Illinois lawmakers; however, there is opposition to the bill coming from tech companies who claim that the bill raises privacy issues.

Representatives from both Facebook and Yahoo have come out in opposition of the bill, saying it would actually ignore the wishes of a deceased person, as well as negate years of settled case law. The companies also claim that the bill would override options and tools they have developed and put in place to help ensure users accounts are protected.

Lawmakers who drafted the bill disagree. They say the bill is similar to current law regarding how physical assets are handled, whereby the court appoints someone to inventory and document a person's possessions, as well settle the person's estate. One lawmaker compared the online account issue as similar to a deceased person owning a safe deposit box located at a bank. The person appointed by the court is allowed to gain access to that box and make arrangements for that property.

Lawmakers also say that in today's digital world, with more and more people going "paperless," it is becoming increasingly difficult to settle a person's estate without having access to those online accounts when they have passed away without leaving instructions.

Two advocacy groups have expressed concern over the possibilities of unintended abuses of what the bill would allow. The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Trevor Project, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, are both working with lawmakers to help fine-tune the wording of the bill to ensure that the bill’s actual intentions are not abused.

Issues such as online accounts and digital assets can be addressed when a person draws up his or her estate plans. If you are considering drawing up a new estate plan, or would like to update the plans you currently have in place, please contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today to discuss your options and what will work best for you and your family.

Planning Your Estate: It Does Not Have to be Difficult

electronic accounts, family feuding, legal guardianship plans, master document, new estate plan, planning your estate, Wheaton estate planning attorneyMany people do not like to think about estate planning because of the subject matter—facing one’s mortality. They put off making plans or they just never actually sit down with an attorney to formulate what needs to be done. This inaction can often have negative consequences for the family that is left behind. However, estate planning does not have to be a difficult process. In fact, most planning can be done relatively simply, and once done, it can leave everyone involved with peace of mind.

To begin, first prepare what is called a "master document." This document should include information regarding all of your assets and debts. Additionally, include any pertinent information such as account numbers and passwords, as these accounts will need to be closed out. The master document should also contain information regarding any electronic accounts you may have, such as a digital music library or social media accounts. Include instructions regarding how assets are to be handled, as well as copies of a living trust, will, and additional estate documents.

Next, if you do not yet have a will, you should one drawn up to ensure that your property and possessions go to those whom you wish them to go to. Although we would like to believe that our families would honor our wishes, most of us have heard or read about the intense family feuding that can occur without a will. Often times, these disagreements end up in court and much of an estate’s worth is eaten up by legal fees—something that could have been avoided had the decedent included a will. Also, parents with young children should include legal guardianship plans in the event of sudden death.

Depending on the makeup of your estate, you may want to consider other plans as well, such as trusts, powers of attorney, special needs trust or living wills. An experienced Wheaton estate planning attorney can go over all your options and help you choose what is right for you and your family.