Digital property: An emerging issue in estate planning

Compared to other areas of law, estate and probate planning is pretty slow to change. However, the ubiquity of technology could open a new set of issues in estate planning. We have wishes for our tangible property including money, cars and houses – but what about digital property? Do you have an estate plan for the information you keep online?

Digital property is an emerging issue in estate and probate planning. Digital property is any self-established online information related to your identity including pictures, websites and bank accounts. Currently, the reach of technology outpaces the application of federal law. Loved ones who wish to access their deceased relative’s online information are left to hacking or lengthy litigation as long as the law lags behind.

What is digital property?

As stated, your online personal identity is your digital property. Online businesses, bank accounts and blogs can all qualify under an estate plan. When drawing up an estate plan related to digital property, it is important to include passwords, who has access to what information and assets, and what can be done with said information and assets.

When dealing with an online business, beneficiaries should also receive information related to tax records and future intent. Writing an ‘owner’s vision’ to include in the will is critical to guiding the future of an online business.

You can even control what happens to your social media pages in an estate plan. Do you want your Facebook page to continue after your death? These issues could seem flippant, but they will become more important as younger generations grow older and establish a greater online presence.

Who can help with digital property planning?

Although the federal government’s laws are out of date, the Michigan state legislature took action this year to pass the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act,” which helps clarify the rules related to a digital estate.

This guidance from the state helps estate and probate planning attorneys assist people around the Bingham Farms area with their end of life plans. What you want to do with your estate after you die can be a tough conversation to have with your loved ones, but it is necessary to avoid state intervention in the passing of your assets.

Technology is putting users ahead of the curve in innovation and information. Including your digital property in your will is a simple way to get ahead of the estate planning curve.