What Happens to Your Digital Property after You Die?

 By James Lamm '94

We are accumulating important electronic data in our smartphones, computers, and online accounts. If we want to pass on our emails, our Facebook account contents, our digital family photos and movies, and other important data, we need to plan ahead for our data and online accounts so that our fiduciaries and family members can receive that data after we become incapacitated or die.

Two Key Steps

First, make a list of any important data, online accounts, and digital property.

This could be a written or electronic list stored in your smartphone, computer, or an online account. Include where each account or digital property item is, how you access it, and why it's important. Keep the list up-to-date.

Second, contact your estate planning attorney to include your digital property in your estate plan.

Make sure your estate plan appoints a fiduciary to act on your behalf with respect to your digital property (as well as your other property) during incapacity and after death. This may include preparing a durable power of attorney, a will, and a revocable living trust. Your estate plan should authorize the companies that hold your electronic data to release it to your fiduciaries during your incapacity and after your death.

Planning ahead for your digital property is essential to ensure full access to your data. It will also:

• keep estate administration costs down
• provide for a smooth estate administration
• ensure that none of your valuable or important digital property is overlooked

Contact your estate planning attorney today to include your digital property in your estate plan.

 

About the author: James Lamm '94 is an estate planning attorney and a principal in the Trust, Estate & Charitable Planning group at Gray Plant Mooty law firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He writes and speaks about advanced estate planning topics nationally, and he has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, Intellectual Property Magazine, MSNBC, Reuters, MSN Money, and public radio. He is the author of a blog, "Digital Passing," on estate planning for passwords, online accounts, and digital property.

 

Copyright 2013 James D. Lamm

 

Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended for general educational and information purposes only-it should not be construed or relied upon as tax or legal advice or opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your state concerning your own situation and any specific tax or legal questions you may have.

More about planned giving:

Jim Dwyer '75
Director of Planned Giving
Saint John's University
(320) 363-2116

Denise Holstad
Senior Planned Giving Associate
Saint John's University
(320) 363-2092