Heirs Denied Access to Digital Assets After Death?


In another example of how the law has not kept up with technology, your digital assets may be at risk after death.

An article from the AFP news service explains some of the problems that occur with on-line assets after death:

In the case of online photo albums, “those photos are yours and you have a copyright, but the problem is if you upload them to a site like Shutterfly, the property you own is now stuck behind a license,” said Nathan Dosch, a Wisconsin attorney specializing in estate planning.

“The underlying asset is still owned by you but the access terminates on your death. The same can be said about emails.”

. . . .

“Nobody really likes to think about mortality, especially not their own,” said Jeremy Toeman, co-founder of a startup called Legacy Locker, which bills itself as a “secure repository for your digital property.”

Toeman said he supports a digital “manifesto” that would establish rights to online accounts for a reasonable period.

He said that in planning for handling online accounts, consumers can use a number of options including simply writing down instructions for family members, but adds, “We think that if it’s an online world and an online identity you should have an online service.”

Experts advise against detailing all digital assets in a will, which could become a public document, opening up the possibility of identity theft.

Some say a separate document or executor for digital assets could be useful, and Beyer said that one way to preserve access would be to register accounts in the name of a trust, control of which could be transferred on death.

The entire article is available here.

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