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.

Source:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/technology/ct-digital-death-privacy-laws-ap-bsi-20161003-story.html

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3728&ChapterID=60