Attorney Lisa McDevitt Indicates Estate Planning Is Important For Digital Assets Too

Law Firm Newswire



Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) September 25, 2013 – Bequeathing digital assets should be part of estate planning, too.

While estate planning usually involves bequeathing money, real estate and heirlooms, Virginia estate planning attorney Lisa McDevitt says that people planning their estates should think about online assets as well.

“Digital assets can range from sentimental items such as photographs to things with commercial value such as access to business documents that are kept online,” said McDevitt. “Online assets do have value and they should be considered in your estate planning.”

Passwords can be preserved in a physical location, and online safe deposit boxes are also available, allowing for password storage and designation of a beneficiary. An individual’s executor or personal representative should be informed of how to access online accounts after their death and what should be done with the data. Personal information such as user names and passwords should not be included in a will, because it becomes a public document after death.

If passwords are not passed on, then personal representatives or executors can contact social media sites and establish their authority to administer the estate. Most social media services will not give out passwords to an executor, but will provide data from the account such as photographs and posts.

In Virginia, H.B. 1752 recently became law, permitting parents of deceased minors to take over their social media accounts upon submitting a written request and a copy of the death certificate. This can be important for parents to find answers after the death of a child, particularly in cases of suicide.

Technology companies are also tackling the problem with practical solutions such as preference settings for what the company should do with a user’s information if the user is out of touch for a specified period of time. Google has introduced an “Inactive Account Manager” feature that allows users of services like Gmail and Google Drive to specify what should happen to their data if they do not log on for a set time, such as six months. The user can specify whether a designated person should be given access to the data or whether it should be deleted.

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