Since the first smartphones were introduced nearly a decade ago, there has been a gradual shift from widespread use of traditional paper documents to digital documents. If you need proof, consider that most people have plane tickets on their phones, or can deposit checks by simply taking a picture it. These changing norms also apply to estate planning regarding how digital assets are handled.
For those unfamiliar with them, digital assets are property that is stored in electronic form (i.e. email accounts, digitally stored music, writings and spreadsheets held in a “cloud”), as well as information that allows a user to access such property (e.g. passwords). With a growing number of people having such property, more people are seeking guidance on how to pass it on to their heirs.
Technology companies have learned about this growing need and are developing products and guidelines to accommodate posthumous wishes regarding digital data. For example, Google has its “Inactive Account Manager” which will allow users to determine how stored data may be distributed after they pass away. This is an important innovation given that many Internet service providers do not have specific policies on who may control such data after the user passes away.
For those who do not have a Google email account, an experienced estate planning attorney can help in devising a plan surrounding how digital assets can be transferred, as well as who may access virtual accounts and properties. A lawyer can give professional advice surrounding posthumous access and distribution of such property.