Managing the Digital Assets of the Deceased

According to a 2007 study conducted by Microsoft, the average web user has 25 online accounts ranging from social network accounts to banking and financial accounts. In America alone, nearly 72% of American adults have an online presence or use social media sites. These accounts are a part of the web that links almost everyone together, and has become an important component of personal identification. So what happens to these accounts when the owner becomes deceased? For a while, it was believed that our digital life would live beyond our own—the entire world would have more digital accounts than humans (and we’re very close to that point already)—but many web platforms have now developed policies allowing for the management of accounts after death.

According to a recent Philly.com article, “Social Media After Death,” in many instances, management of social media accounts after an individual passes away are handled by the executor; digital assets are part of the estate, and they should be treated like other assets by the executor.

Depending on where you live, the issue of digital asset management may also be further complicated. Right now there are 19 states that have laws on the books that protect digital assets and state how they are to be handled after you die.

In addition, there are some advocates trying to standardize the manner in which digital assets are handled across the states. The Uniform Law Commission (UFC) is working on this, but until this legislation is adopted, the article suggests that you talk with an estate planning attorney. He or she will have the latest information of how a deceased’s digital assets are handled in your own state.

Reference: Philly.com (July 24, 2015) “Social Media After Death”

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