Photo Credit to Netflix

by Megan A. Moghtaderi, Esq.

LUKE: Hey, some people go their entire lives without having these kinds of conversations. My parents didn’t discuss a damn thing my entire childhood. Worked fine for them. Of course, when my mom died she had to tell my dad where the coupon drawer was. Took him ten years to find it. Used a coffee can the whole time.

LORELAI: Okay.

LUKE: I don’t care what anybody says, a coupon can is not as good as a coupon drawer.[1]

In my time as an estate planner, I have seen clients, like Luke’s father in Gilmore Girls, never have a conversation with their spouse or loved ones about their assets and upon the loved one’s passing are completely lost on how to the handle those assets. While it rarely takes on the form of a coupon drawer or can, they still have to manage and oftentimes look for their loved one’s digital assets. It can be complex attempting to handle the digital assets of a loved ones when there is either no record of their digital accounts or no instruction on how to manage all of these different accounts.

As covered in the first article of this series, there are many different types of digital assets. In general, there are three ways in which you can manage your digital assets.[2]

First is to designate your wishes using tools in the asset itself. This option is only available if the digital asset service provider offers this service. Depending on the account type, you can designate your wishes for the asset to determine what happens to your account upon your passing. This is similar in theory to payable on death accounts where once a designation is made the provider will just stick to the designation.

Second is to create a comprehensive estate plan designating in your documents who has access to your digital assets, for what purpose, and whether to keep these assets open or to terminate them. This is by far the most comprehensive and advisable step for you to take.

There are countless questions to consider when it comes to your digital assets. Who will have access to your emails, bill-pay, and social media accounts upon your passing? Do you own the rights to anything you posted online? Do you want your family to have access to the books, movies, apps, and music you purchased on any of your devices or accounts? Do you want your social media accounts to still be available upon your passing to be “memorialized,” or do you want them shut down forever? How will all of this be managed? It is advisable to meet with a legal professional versed in the management of digital assets to discuss an estate plan tailored to fit your particular needs with all of your assets.

Third, the terms of a service agreement may determine how your digital assets are dealt with after you die. Typically, these agreements will limit access to anyone who isn’t an account owner. These service agreements can work in conjunction with an estate plan; however, it can also limit what happens with your digital asset. This is covered in more depth in our final article.

It is advisable for you to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss your digital assets and the proper planning techniques.

 

[1] Gilmore Girls transcript of episode Sadie, Sadie… http://www.gilmoregirls.org/eguide/transcripts/episode201.html

[2] Not all of your digital assets can be managed using the strategies in this article but that will be covered in the third and final installment of this series.

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