According to a recently released report, families need to be concerned about more than just what will happen to their houses and bank accounts after they pass. Families must also now focus on virtual property, such as music, social media accounts, PayPal accounts, and online games. These items may have a substantial amount of financial or emotional value.
Currently, the law is relatively unclear relating to issues surrounding various forms of digital property. E-mail, social networking accounts, word-processing files, digital photos, and frequent flyer miles are assets lacking laws that govern how they should be distributed following death. Families must consider that these valuable memories and records may be password protected and stored online.
When it comes to trying to access these digital assets, families must deal with state property laws, federal privacy laws, and corporate policies for the companies that house the online accounts. Many families find themselves at the mercy of these companies, whose policies generally are crafted with the aim to protect the account users’ privacy. For example, Yahoo accounts are not transferable after a user passes away. All rights to the content terminate upon death.
According to the findings of this report, families should consider appointing a digital executor who is in charge of keeping track of account logins and passwords. A digital executor also should be given clear instructions contained within the estate plan to dictate who has access to which accounts.
Some companies are catching on to these needs, such as Google. Google now allows users to indicate whether they want their account deleted after their passing, and at what time, through an Inactive Account Manager tool. They can also directly appoint a digital executor via this tool.
To learn more about this and other estate planning matters, contact an estate planning attorney in Anaheim today at (714) 459-5481.