We spend a lot of time in our lives accumulating things. A house, car, antiques, collectibles, books, music, and photos and other family heirlooms. From a transfer perspective, these items are easy to address. Either they go to a person or charity or they are sold and the proceeds are then distributed. What about the other things you may have? Those things that may not have a physical presence?
Digital media rights are now addressed in our Wills and Powers of Attorney to grant your loved ones the authority to take down your profile after you’ve passed. This language is generally broad to allow loved ones to request the account be removed as well as request photos and other items that may be of importance be transferred. Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to tell Google what to do with the deceased account holder’s user generated content. It’s not a perfect process, but it does prevent your loved ones from receiving friend requests or appearing in the “people you may know” section of your social media account.
The second path available for loved ones is to reach out to the online company directly. Facebook, for instance, allows verified family members to request an account be “memorialized” which allows it to be viewed, but blocks access and activity. Family members may also simply request the account be removed by completing an online request. Most social media companies have adopted some form of request process allowing family members to make an account inactive or remove it altogether.
What happens to the electronic items you have purchased over the year – items such as e-books, game purchases or the music and video library on Amazon? Unlike the traditional physical asset such as a paperback book, you don’t own the asset. Rather, you are granted a personal license to use the asset. The personal part of that license is where they get you. It means you cannot transfer it.
With a book or record collection, you are able to simply identify the collection and state who you would like to be the recipient. With online assets, the rights to use them generally fade away when you do and people are becoming creative with how they solve this issue. For instance some estate planners are creating separate trusts to be account holders for music, e-book and video accounts, but that can become quite complicated. The law is evolving in this area so a smoother process may develop soon. In the meantime, you can add a child or children to the account as an authorized user so that they may continue to use the library you’ve accumulated.
Digital Asset Inventory
One final note with respect to digital assets is to think about creating an inventory of your online presence. Capture all of your email, social media, online banking and other online accounts in one place with the user name and password. This will allow your loved ones to access and manage your accounts should you be unable to do so. This list can be kept in a safe or lock box or can be stored with various online application providers in a secure environment. Taking a few minutes today to accumulate the information can save your loved ones hours later.
Estate Planning Kansas City is an estate planning attorney in Overland Park providing wills and trusts to those in Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe, Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Shawnee and now serving Parkville, Riverside and North Kansas City from our Briarcliff Office. Each situation is different and this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be placed solely upon the base of this post. Overland Park Office: (913) 766-7188. North Kansas City (816) 381-9300.