As we have discussed before in this blog, Floridians’ digital assets and holdings are becoming increasingly important in the state’s estate administration landscape. Gone are the days of entirely “analog” assets, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, online banking and a variety of other virtual processes. So far, the nation has yet to develop a set of uniform laws to deal with the complications that can result from digital asset valuation and distribution.

Just five states have laws on the books about digital estates. If you are in a state without such protection, you could be at the mercy of the Internet service providers who orchestrate your online life. This is distressing for many heirs because service providers’ privacy policies and other attributes often differ, leading to legal difficulties that have even prompted lawsuits.

Facebook has been the focus of many legislative efforts to protect heirs and beneficiaries. One mother whose son died in a motorcycle accident in 2005 spent years suing the company for the rights to access his account. In another shocking case, a man who killed himself had posted pictures of himself holding a gun to his own head. Family members spent more than a month attempting to remove the picture, which was only taken down by Facebook after newspaper clippings were sent to the company in protest.

Lawmakers throughout the nation are seeking solutions to the digital estate problem. Laws about the distribution and management of these assets would free companies from liability. Some groups are already implementing estate-planning features. Google, for example, allows individuals to enact a digital will that can bequeath their assets to a trusted friend or family member.

If you have questions about the security or future of your digital assets after you die, consider seeking the help of a qualified probate attorney. These professionals can help you work within existing law and create innovative solutions if legislation has not yet been passed. Your probate attorney can help you ensure that your digital holdings are properly distributed after you pass.

Luis E. Barreto