Digital Asset Series Part II: The Most Common Types of Digital Assets

In Part I of this series, I defined and provided examples of digital assets. Today we are going to focus on the two most popular categories of digital assets: personal and social media. Some sites, like Facebook and Gmail, have specific policies in place for handling your digital assets after your death. However, many digital sites and services have yet to develop such policies. Despite that fact, there is still a way to plan for those other digital assets, so stay tuned for Part IV! In the meantime, let’s look at some of these assets and existing policies.

Personal digital assets are comprised of those digital assets that you have stored on your personal computer or phone, or perhaps personal assets that you have uploaded to a website. Examples of these assets include photos that you uploaded to Shutterfly, photos you took with your iPhone, documents you drafted on your computer, personal information stored on your iPhone, etc. There is no hard and fast policy for handling assets that are left on your personal devices. The password, pin or any other method required to access that information should be provided to the person you want to have access to those assets. For instance, if you intend to leave all your unpublished manuscripts currently sitting on your locked computer to your daughter, it would be important for her and the executor to know of your intentions.  That is most commonly done with a Will.  However you must also provide your executor or your daughter with the password for the computer so that the manuscripts can be obtained.

Social media digital assets are sites that are used to interact with other people. These sites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. As previously mentioned, several of these sites have policies for handling the digital assets of a person that has died. Facebook unveiled a new policy with regard to the accounts of deceased individuals. Instead of simply memorializing a page, although that is still an option, where it can still be viewed but never edited, Facebook now allows you to designate a “legacy contact” to make limited actions to manage your account after you death. You should review the terms of service of your social media accounts to determine if they have such policies in place.

Email has elements of both social media and personal digital assets.  Gmail’s policy provides that “in rare cases [they] may be able to provide the contents of the Gmail account to an authorized representative of the deceased person.” Their process has multiple requirements that must be met for consideration to gain access, and even then there is no guarantee.

If you have not incorporated your digital assets into your estate plan, or if you have yet to create an estate plan, contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help you create a comprehensive estate plan that benefits your family and your life. Keep checking back for our continuing series on handling your digital assets after your death.

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Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

Debbie Cunningham is an Irving attorney providing affordable estate planning to the Dallas/ Fort-Worth areas. She understands the steps you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Debbie is family-focused and wants to ensure her clients are fully informed on the options that are available for their families. Debbie’s own blended family has given her valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics.

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