One of the most significant challenges when developing a New Mexico Estate Plan is ensuring that no critical assets are omitted when constructing a Trust or drafting a Will. There are many types of assets that people tend to overlook, which may include insurance policies, future inheritance or damages from a pending lawsuit. However, an emerging issue in estate planning that most people never consider is the management and succession of their digital assets.
While the management and disposition of your right to digital assets may not seem like a major issue, it is one that is becoming increasingly important because the online world is where many people manage their investment accounts, conduct banking transactions, store pictures and even maintain intellectual property. The growing amount of activity that people conduct on their computer and over the Internet makes it important to address digital asset management when constructing an estate plan.
Although this may be a newer issue in the area of estate planning, it is not limited to young people who spend significant amounts of time on Facebook and other social media sites. The issue first gained national prominence when Yahoo! denied the family of a U.S. Marine, who was killed in combat, access to the soldier’s emails. Because the soldier did not have an Estate Plan that addressed digital assets, the family was forced to go to court to obtain an order requiring Yahoo! to permit the family to access the fallen soldier’s account.
There are many financial and sentimental reasons that digital asset management and succession planning may be important. Because so much economic activity occurs online, it may be difficult to gather digital or personal assets without access to email accounts, online banking, retirement account statements, and similar correspondence and financial documents that are an increasing part of our paperless society. While beneficiaries used to simply search through a decedent’s documents and files, this may be much more difficult now that so much economic activity occurs online.
The sentimental value of pictures and letters stored on photo sites and social media sites might also be lost if digital asset planning is not handled properly. Many photos only exist digitally and may be hosted on websites like Shutterfly, Flickr and similar sites. These memories may be lost without Estate Plan that provides login information and identifies where such keepsakes and mementos are located. This can be solved by providing instructions regarding management and access to your digital assets as well as your succession intentions in estate planning documents.
If you are considering creating an Estate Plan or updating your current Estate Plan, you might want to consider mentioning the issue of digital asset planning to your New Mexico Estate Planning Attorney. The scope of assets may include items stored on websites, your computer, tablet or laptop. The law has lagged behind technology when it comes to digital asset issues so it is important to seek legal advice about the best way to plan for the management and succession of your digital assets if you should become incapacitated or in the event of your passing. When you speak to an experienced Albuquerque Estate Planning Lawyer at Jay Goodman and Associates, we can analyze the specific digital asset issues relevant to your situation and recommend the best way to address these concerns.
The above information is designed solely to illustrate general principles of law, and does not constitute a specific legal opinion on individual cases. We suggest that you contact experienced legal counsel for a specific opinion tailored to your individual circumstances
If you have questions about estate planning, our New Mexico Estate Planning Attorneys at Jay Goodman & Associates offers free initial phone consultations. Call us today to schedule your free consultation at (505) 989-8117 to learn about your rights and discuss your options.