Technology has changed many facets of modern life, including the way we plan for the future of our estates. Where families once only needed to address physical assets and financial accounts in estate planning, they must now also designate wishes for their digital assets.
Galloway and Collens, PLLC, represents individuals in the Detroit metro area and throughout Michigan in the protection of their digital assets in estate law.
What Are Digital Assets?
You probably have more digital assets that you realize. These may include:
- Online accounts: Any account created online that requires a username and password, such as Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn, eBay, online bank accounts and travel reward programs.
- Digital files: Digital files created by you, including scanned photographs or personal documents, as well as any digital files purchased by you, such as music, movies and e-books. These digital files may be located on your personal computer, mobile phone, a server, DVD or CD-ROM, or at an online storage site.
- Intellectual property rights to digital assets: These rights extend to any form of digital property and include copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets.
- Monetized blogs or other e-commerce websites: Your online business will need to be maintained if you become incapacitated or die. We can help set up the tools needed to make these transitions smoother.
What Happens To My Passwords, Email Accounts, Websites And Digital Photos When I Die?
Just as with tangible assets, digital assets are considered part of your estate. So if your wishes are not clearly expressed before the time of your death, your digital assets will be distributed according to intestate laws of the state you reside in. However, complexities arise because presently the majority of states do not have specific legislation regarding digital assets and succession. The law will often turn to the terms of service for each digital account, but some companies have not addressed succession rules in their usage agreements.
Ultimately, without clear direction as to your wishes for your digital assets, your family may face unnecessary probate after your death, and disputes may arise among your loved ones.
What Is Your Digital Legacy?
Whether you are creating your first estate plan or already have an existing plan in place, Galloway and Collens, PLLC, can help. Our legal team will ensure your digital assets are protected and handled according to your wishes in the event you become incapacitated or at the time of your death. We will also discuss practical planning tips to inform beneficiaries on how to access your password-protected digital accounts.
Throughout Michigan, attorney Howard Collens is leading the way in this emerging area of estate law and played a key role in drafting the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. He is highly knowledgeable on the specific laws associated with each type of digital asset and has been a sought-after presenter on the topic for a number of years.