“From a legal point of view,” Fidelity explains, “digital property is like other kinds of property because it can be passed on to designated parties through estate plans.” However, attorney James Lamm in Minneapolis, author of the Digital Passing blog, lists four obstacles that may be faced by family members in accessing information or property stores in the smart phone, computer, online accounts, or in the cloud for someone who has died:
- not knowing the passwords
- digitally stored data that is encrypted
- state and federal laws prohibiting unauthorized access to computer systems
- data privacy law that prevents online service providers from turning over electronic communication without the owner’s consent
Still, by taking a few relatively simple steps, you can save your heirs a great deal of expense and heartache, Fidelity assures readers. Start by making a list, so that your loved ones know what you have by way of online assets. Back up data stored in the Cloud to a local computer or storage device.
As estate planning attorneys, we work with clients to update wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents, including language giving lawful consent to providers to divulge the contents of your electronic communications to the appropriate people.
Digital assets deserve a place in your estate plan!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer