For many Clark County residents, digital assets comprise a great deal of their daily interactions. They log onto their social media accounts on a daily basis, take pictures that they share online and even monitor their financial accounts online. Despite daily interactions with these assets on various platforms, dealing with them in an estate plan can be a complicated matter.
When people think of an estate plan, they often think about a will or a trust. They may not give as much thought to their digital assets. However, not taking precautions regarding these assets means that treasured photos can be lost, monies can be kept in cyberspace indefinitely and social media accounts that chronicle a person’s life can be locked up.
Traditionally, people could use a power of attorney or have a court-appointed executor after their death to handle their assets. However, these mechanisms are not as helpful with digital assets that may be affected by federal laws that prohibit unauthorized access to computer data and user agreements that prohibit the same. Instead, to protect these assets, it usually requires a person to take additional steps. The owner may need to create a list of all digital accounts with the account information and provide this list to a trusted person. This information should not be included in a will, which becomes a public record. Some sites permit account holders to name a person who is permitted to access the account, and this designation can be helpful and important.
Estate planning attorneys know that many of their clients rely on online platforms to manage a good part of their day-to-day affairs. The laws regarding digital assets are evolving, and some states have passed legislation allowing an executor to access and manage these types of accounts if permission has been previously granted. People who have concerns about these matters may want to meet with an attorney in order to determine how best to document such permission.