Digital Inheritances: What Will Happen to Your Online Assets after You Pass Away?

Planning for how your assets will be distributed and passed on after death is difficult enough without having to worry about how your online assets will be transferred. The world we live in today is constantly evolving, with more and more people relying on the Internet in their daily lives. What people don’t often think about, however, is what will happen to their online assets in the future, particularly if they unexpectedly pass away.

Online assets serve extremely important functions for millions of people. Just about everybody uses e-mail, while many people are regular users of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Some people use the Internet as a virtual safe deposit box, storing their music libraries, movies, e-books, photographs and important documents online rather than in a physical location such as a bank, storage facility or shoebox. Along with items that may have sentimental value to you and your loved ones, you might also have blog accounts or website domain names you’ve purchased and maintained over the years and that have a lot of value to others.

Estate laws are constantly changing, but not always quickly enough to keep up with rapid advancements in technology. Most states do not have laws on the books that explicitly deal with digital inheritances. Although New Jersey lawmakers proposed a law to authorize an executor or administrator to take control of a person’s online accounts after they have passed, the law did not make it through the legislature. The lack of legal clarity poses quite a problem for anyone who wants to include their online assets in an estate plan. How will a New Jersey probate court classify your online assets? What kind of authority does your executor have to distribute your online assets? The law in NJ is unclear, often leaving the answers to these questions open to guesswork and judgment calls by probate judges. The best way to protect your loved ones and ensure your online assets are distributed as you want them to be is to make your wishes are explicit in your will or living trust. An experienced estate planning attorney can explain your legal options and help you get through this process.

The experienced estate planning lawyers at Bratton Scott can help you protect your online assets in the future and put your affairs in order today. Contact our estate planning team for a consultation about your specific needs.