When people living in Massachusetts begin to plan their estates, they are often concerned with personal property, real estate, savings accounts and investment funds. One group of assets that is frequently overlooked is digital assets, including email and social media accounts, online shopping profiles and digital content such as music.
Because digital assets have only been a matter of significant concern for a few decades, many people have not considered the ramifications of dying and leaving behind unattended accounts and digital products such as music, books and movies. In addition, the legal status of digital assets and intellectual property has been in flux for a significant period of time. This can lead to confusion regarding ownership and how digital content can be used by others.
As a result, it is easy for individuals, and even legal professionals, to not make any provisions for what will happen with online content and accounts after a person dies or becomes unable to manage his or her affairs. Modern estate plans should include directives regarding digital assets while plans that are already in place should be updated to reflect what an individual wants to happen with their online life and content.
When creating an estate plan, it is advisable to appoint somebody to manage digital assets. It should be noted that the person appointed to this role may not be the same person who is appointed to act as an executor of the will or who has power of attorney if the estate planner is unable to make decisions for him or herself. This is because not everybody has the savvy necessary to navigate email accounts, social media profiles and online merchant accounts.
Individuals who are interested in estate planning may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. A client who is particularly concerned about online content and digital assets should ask about these matters specifically. The lawyer may be able to provide guidance in protecting assets and ensuring that they are managed in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.