When planning your estate, keep in mind your “digital” property. We tend to think of our physical assets, such as a home, bank accounts, retirement account and life insurance. Consider online banking, for instance. Who has access to that information, including passwords? What about family photos, social media profiles and similar “assets?” If you store your family photos on line, who can gain access to them after your death? Each social media provider has its own set of rules regarding access. Each on line bank account and investment account is subject to the rules of the company that handles these assets. Do you know its rules for transfer of ownership?
As a part of a comprehensive estate plan, even one with a basic will, include specific language and directions on how such assets are handled. Many companies do not recognize a general disposition of assets to include “digital” accounts. The best way to deal with this is to include a specific reference to these assets, so that an Executor can provide the express language in a will (or trust) to the company and direct the distribution of them to your heirs. Also consult the terms of your “online” agreement, which may contain express instructions on how to transfer such upon death.
Gabriel Berry Weston & Wells, L.L.P.
Richard W. Gabriel