Preserving Your Digital Assets
Many of us have several dozen different types of "digital assets," including email accounts, pictures, documents, files, videos, web sites, social networking accounts, music, books, domain names, and online accounts such as Paypal and Amazon.
Have you ever considered what happens to these assets when you become incapacitated or upon your death? In many, and perhaps in most cases, the answer to this question is no. Moreover, if you do think about it, you will quickly realize that there is no single solution to preserving or passing on these assets.
So what happens to these assets upon your death or incapacity? Unfortunately, if you do not make a plan, you will lose many of these assets, especially if they are in the Acloud,@ i.e., if your assets are stored on a server which you can access only through your use of a user name and password.
In the case of a small on-line business (e.g., through your own web site or through Amazon or Ebay), the lack of access to your account could result in a substantial financial loss to your estate. Moreover, unless you have a list of your accounts, user names, passwords, security questions and other access information, your Trustee or executor may not even know that you own a valuable digital assets.
So what should you do?
First, you need to keep a list of all accounts, computers and other devices which store your digital assets and record all of the user names, passwords, security questions and other information which are needed to access these assets. I use an Excel spreadsheet for this purpose which currently has seventy-eight line items, and I am sure I am missing some.
Second, you should to update this list whenever there is a change to the information. I do this by keeping a copy of my spreads heet on all computers I use, then updating the list on one and immediately copying the information onto the other computers. You can also use several different services, such as KeePass, my-i-Wallet or KeePass, to store this information.
Third, you need to place a copy of the list in your Estate Planning Portfolio or other location where your Executor Successor Trustee or Attorney-in Fact can find it.
Fourth, you should include provisions in your Will, Revocable Living Trust and/or Durable Power of Attorney which gives your Successor Trustee the power and ability to access all of your accounts and to handle the assets in those accounts in accordance with your wishes. The documents we prepare include such provisions.
Although there is a chance that this problem will be resolved through legislation, this is unlikely to happen for some time. For example, although several States have passed or are considering statutory changes which grant Trustees, executors or heirs various control over digital assets of a deceased individual, these laws vary in scope and in many cases are out-dated almost immediately after they are enacted because of changes in the digital media universe.
Since this issue affects every State and since most companies which have digital data operate across State lines and international borders, federal legislation on this issue is needed. At this time, however, no such legislation has been proposed.
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