Assets in the Clouds? Get Good Estate Planning Advice
How to Plan Your Estate in the iPad Age
Digital difficulties arise when a spouse or family member passes away without leaving access or authority to their home—and assets—in the cloud.
In the past, estate plans identified and transferred assets like investment and savings accounts, insurance policies, real property and other items of value. As more and more people pour energy and money into cyberspace, assets and possessions reside in the cloud. While not held in the hand, these non-visible assets are sometimes worth a lot in financial and sentimental value.
Types of social media
You may have a little or a lot online already. Consider the types of virtual content and assets including:
- Website: Do you have a personal or professional website? Most businesses have a web presence as do hobbyists the world over. Have you made a video that went viral? More than 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute.
- Online accounts: Many people store and share personal and professional photography. Others game online, participate in rewards programs and other ventures.
- Communication: Social media, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, is ubiquitous. Most individuals have at least one email account.
- Goods: Music libraries are purchased and stored online, and virtual book collections, too. A blog or other literary effort can have personal or economic value. Virtual games like Farmville give players the opportunity to buy virtual goods.
What about estate planning for virtual assets?
Laws around the access and transfer of virtual assets after the death of the owner continue to develop. Although it seems logical to access the email account of a loved one if they die, the terms of service with their internet provider may forbid it. The New Jersey wiretapping and electronic surveillance control act defines how electronic communications are intercepted in our state.
As with physical assets, a well-written estate plan safeguards your privacy and ensures that the electronic contents of your digital domain are protected. A complete estate plan protects the economic and sentimental legacy you sought to pass to your family and friends. Steps to take at the outset include:
- Select a digital executor who possesses sufficient technological savvy to act on your wishes.
- Create a list of all your digital accounts. Include URL, user name and password information.
- Make decisions about your content. Should your Facebook account continue as a memorial? Is your email to be deleted without being read? What about a blog?
- Consider a digital trust to hold and transfer authority and ownership to your beneficiaries.
Estate planning in the virtual or physical world requires skilled advice. When you need answers about your Will or digital assets, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney in North and Central New Jersey. Our offices are in Springfield (Union County), Lebanon (Hunterdon County), New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York.