Your Digital Estate
Thanks to everyone who "liked" the Musial Law Facebook page - I'm grateful for all the support I have received.
Posting the firm online made me think about a relatively new issue facing estate planners - that is, how to prepare for the digital afterlife. When people think about gifting their assets, they naturally think of real or personal property - a house, a favorite ring, a treasured china set, etc. Some even think about their intangible property rights - patents, trademarks, copyrights and the like. But few stop to think about what will happen to their digital property - documents created on their computer, emails sent, Facebook profiles, Instagram accounts, etc. And fewer will plan for it.
If you are like me, you probably have multiple user names on different websites, and a myriad of different passwords. You have probably had to request a forgotten password on occassion - I certainly have. Unfortunately, if I have so much trouble figuring out a password that I created, imagine how frustrating it would be for the Executor of my estate.
Another issue (which is too in-depth to adeqately address in this blog post) is who "owns" the property in your digital estate. After all, many sites require the user to sign a user agreement which may state that the information posted is property of the website, or otherwise limit the user's interest in what is created. Entirely original content created by a user on a blog may nevertheless "belong" to the host, based on the terms of the user agreement.
For MMO gamers, there may be digital things of real value attached to one's character - gear or equipment that could be sold in an online marketplace for cash. Or you may want to give your account to a friend.
There are many more issues to be addressed, but it is easy to see how important addressing the digital estate is. Here are several steps you can take in your will to give your Executor guidance:
Take an inventory of all your online accounts.
Provide questions and answers to any security questions created in a document separate from your will (a will becomes public record).
Name a "digital Executor" to your estate if your named Executor cannot act as such.
Determine what digital content is "owned" by you and what belongs to the host.
Inventory any (legally) purchased music, television shows, movies, software, etc.
Of course, it's always best to discuss these issues with an attorney to cover the broad range of questions you may have.
Thanks again for the support of Musial Law Firm!