Welcome to the digital age where we now have to consider such mundane things as our Facebook login credentials in our estate plan if we want our loved ones to have access to it upon our passing. Many Michiganders often forget about digital assets when planning their estate, both non-financial and financial assets, such as your online trading accounts or your online gossip trading accounts. Think about all the online photo albums you may have stored on various social media and file sharing websites such as Flickr and Facebook, do you want loved ones to be able to access those photos?

What about the obscure little trading account you opened on a whim with one of your annual bonus checks that just happens to be doing pretty well of late? These types of assets are often forgotten in a person’s will or estate plan and since the digital age has moved well, faster than the speed of light, the laws in this area have not yet caught up with the technology in terms of passing them on to your loved ones. There is often the websites terms of use and privacy policies that need to be considered in such cases.

The Uniform Law Commission, a group that writes and recommends laws and statutes that states can adopt, is looking to create a statute for states to consider that will lend some consistency to what is and is not allowed when it comes to passing down digital assets. In the past a person’s photo album and musical collection were physical objects that could be easily passed on to another, but now that photo album and music and video collection exists in the “cloud” making it a much more complex area of law when it comes to inheritance, terms of use and copyright issues.

Because of that, more and more estate planners are instructing clients to leave very clear instructions for family members when it comes to digital assets. Estate planning attorneys have added digital assets to the estate planning check list along with a series of addendums in documenting where these assets are located and how they are accessed online. A great deal of money could be attached to your digital assets as well, according to a survey by Intel’s McAfee, the company’s security-technology unit, which found that American consumers value their digitals assets at almost $55,000 on average.

Look for a continuation on this topic next week as we go into estate planning tips from the experts and other reasons to consider the future of your online legacy.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Passing Down Digital Assets,” Kelly Greene, Aug. 31, 2012

Our law firm handles estate planning issues, including wills, trusts and probate representation.

FindLaw Network