ESTATE PLANNING CAN GUIDE DISTRIBUTION OF YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS

What happens to your digital assets after you die? An increasing number of Florida residents are taking the time to address this concern in their estate planning documents, as the national debate rages about whether online accounts should die along with their users. A new movement among attorneys would allow family members to get immediate access to relatives’ digital accounts — unless the information is somehow protected through estate administration directives.

Facebook and other social media sites have understandably been reluctant to hand over users’ personal information after their deaths. Further, many users say they would be uncomfortable if their loved ones had unrestricted access to their information after they die. Attorneys throughout the nation say they want to standardize access to digital assets for relatives of those who pass away. A new proposed plan would allow relatives to access — but not control — a dead relative’s digital accounts. That is, unless a will specifies otherwise.

This is particularly important for people who operate profitable online ventures such as blogs, as well as those who have invested in a long-term video game avatar. Families often end up fighting for access to these assets because they need to settle financial information, or they may even want sentimental data from their relatives’ files. Courts are still debating the issue, with companies who provide e-mail and social media services often being ordered to hand over information, often in violation of their own privacy policies.

The best way to protect your online assets is to discuss estate planning strategies with an attorney. If you have a vision for the distribution of your digital assets, it is likely that a professional can help you craft documentation to protect your holdings. Estate planning is not just confined to hard-copy information anymore; family members need to carefully consider the future of their digital information.

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Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.