Estate planning in the digital age

People like Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, and others like them might have known how much computers and the Internet would change the world, but most people in Nevada and across the country most likely did not know. Yet these days, a good portion of Americans’ daily lives are spent using computers and the Internet. Therefore, estate planning needs to account for that fact as much as possible.

Most Nevada residents might not realize just how many assets they have online. Photos, movies, songs and other accounts that exist only on their computers are part of their estates. Therefore, they will need to be disposed of in some manner after death.

The first thing that needs to be done is to make a list of every online account. The list — or a separate list for security reasons — should also have account numbers, user names and passwords on it so that loved ones can access the accounts after death. However, providing this information does not necessarily mean that family members are legally able to gain access. Every website has its own rules and regulations regarding what happens to accounts after users’ deaths.

Therefore, part of the estate planning process should include deciphering user agreements in order to determine what, if anything, an individual can do ahead of time to provide family members access to the assets upon death. Understanding these agreements can sometimes be a challenge, so a person might need help from his or her estate planning attorney to make the proper arrangements. In other cases, it will be up to the executor of the estate to gain access or otherwise deal with the each digital asset.

Source:, “Tips for estate planning and digital assets“, Isabell Mueller, Feb. 28, 2016

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