Part 1: Digital and other unique assets
We live in a digital world, and that means digital assets are all around us. From the photos and videos stored on our smartphones, to our social media accounts and downloaded music, to buying and selling through our PayPal and Ebay accounts, and more, most people interact with digital assets hundreds, if not thousands, of times throughout the day.
When it comes to estate and incapacity planning, the management and protection of our digital assets is a reality of the times. But what exactly are those digital assets and how can we organize and protect them after we die?
“Water is a useful metaphor for digital assets; they are just as fluid, ever-changing, and dynamic, which presents both challenges and opportunities for executors and those who provide services to them. And, like water, digital assets can simply slip through one’s fingers without care.”
– Daniel Nelson, “The Challenge of Digital Estate Administration for Executors”
A digital asset is a record that is created, recorded, transmitted or stored in digital or other intangible form by electronic, magnetic or optical means or other similar means. Digital assets can include:
Digital based currencies and electronic payment accounts
Digital photographs and videos
Files stored on digital devices
Licenses to use software
Social network accounts
On-line role-playing games
Social Media accounts
When first opening a Facebook account, the user can decide how they want the account handled upon their death. The user can opt to either have the account changed to a legacy account; or permanently delete the account.
Upon receiving notice from the estate trustee or a verified family member of the deceased, the Twitter account can be deactivated.
LinkedIN will remove a person’s profile once they receive a request to do so.
Instagram will memorialize the account of a deceased individual with proof of death. They will remove the account at the request from a verified immediate family member and will require proof of family status, such as:
Deceased person’s birth certificate
Deceased person’s death certificate
Documentation that the person making the request is the lawful representative of the deceased’s estate
Google and Google Products
It is up to the user to decide how they would like their social or commercial account handled. The user can choose an “inactive account manager” option, in which case, users are able to choose to share some of their account data with others and to have others receive notice that the account has been inactive. If they do not choose the “inactive account manager”, the account may be closed if certain information is not received. In that case, in the past, a court order has been required to be able to access information or data.
Next week, in part two of our three part series on digital and unique assets, we’ll focus on digital currency and commercial accounts.
All clients and prospective clients should seek independent legal and tax advice regarding their particular legal, tax and estate planning needs. Please contact us for more information.