What is digital property?
Digital property includes digital music, photos saved on the internet, emails, social media accounts and any other electronic version of information or data. Digital property is essentially any information created with respect to a person that exists in digital form.
What is digital asset estate planning?
Family members can fight over digital property in the same way they fight over personal and real property. Digital assets also present problems when family members cannot access the materials. In order to avoid issues in probate, attorneys can place assets into a digital estate plan. Attorneys have not yet accepted a universal model for digital assets in estate planning, but some states have enacted statutes to guide the process. These include statutes to address whether a digital asset is transferable.
A social media account holder will typically include the appointment of a digital executor, an explanation of how the decedent wants their social media accounts handled, a list of accounts, and a stipulation allowing the online executor to obtain a copy of the decedent’s death certificate.
What is a digital executor?
A digital executor is someone chosen to download your digital assets and memorialize social media accounts.
What happens to digital assets in intestacy?
When a person dies “intestate” they die without a will, and their property is distributed under the default rules of the state. Digital estate planning is important because digital assets can lose value if they are not found by the executor. Additionally, this protects your accounts and information from being accessed by unwelcome individuals. In the worst case scenarios, social media accounts that are not closed or memorialized following a death are susceptible to identity theft and/or fraud.
What happens to social media accounts without a digital will?
Social media accounts are virtually impossible to close or delete without a will or estate plan. Family and friends cannot contact social media platforms in order to have accounts closed when someone has died. Instagram and Facebook will both memorialize the account of the decedent upon notification from the decedent’s family. Since most profitable social media accounts are owned by younger individuals, the issue of inheritance with respect to social media accounts is relatively new. Currently, social media accounts cannot be inherited. Therefore, if you want to ensure that your social media accounts are managed properly following your death, share your passwords in a will or with an executor.