California Judge Speaks Out About Digital Assets and Estate Planning

Posted on Jan 07, 2014

A California Superior Court Judge and lecturer at the Santa Clara University School of Law is speaking out about the importance for addressing digital assets in estate plans. Digital assets may include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Often, items of high personal value, such as photos and videos, are stored within these accounts.

Superior Court Judge Eugene Hyman, points out that individuals often have many passwords for their online accounts. If these passwords are not incorporated into an estate plan, loved ones may have no way of accessing online accounts after their loved one becomes disabled or passes away. Companies that maintain these social media services have varying policies for accessing the accounts of a deceased person, and many such policies are not designed to make it easy for family members to obtain their loved one’s private information.

Judge Hyman notes that granting someone the authority within an estate plan to access online accounts may give them the ability to work with Facebook and gain access to the account. The loved one can shut down the account, or make changes, depending on what is appropriate in the circumstances. Judge Hyman further advises that the estate plan should discuss who is the new owner of these accounts, in addition to containing provisions allowing for changes and updates. A thorough estate plan will also address who should profit from any online assets that generate a profit.

Chances are, if you already have an estate plan, it likely does not address control and ownership over your digital assets. As the New Year begins, now is the perfect time to update your Orange County estate plan to address your social media accounts and digital assets

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James F. Roberts
Founder and owner of the Law Office of James F. Roberts and Associates, a premiere estate planning law firm