The digital assets of a deceased loved one can be photos or messages that have sentimental value or domain names and airline points that have monetary value. Digital property includes videos, music libraries, emails, social media accounts, credit card or hotel loyalty points, and even Bitcoin. A law went into effect in Texas in September to help estate executors and trustees gain access to the digital assets of people who died or have placed their assets in trust. Aaron Dobbs, a Houston-area estate lawyer at Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, said that although the Texas law could ease estate transitions, people in all states should consider putting what they want done with their digital assets in their estate planning documents.
I’ve seen people fight over digital assets. It’s best to think about these matters along with tangible assets. Make sure your digital property is managed by the appropriate person. In some cases, you might even want the executor to terminate the account and destroy the contents like potentially revealing texts or emails, Mr. Dobbs advises. There are legal considerations. For instance, executors, trustees, and heirs could be breaking federal cybersecurity laws if they know a deceased person’s passwords and just go in and use loyalty points. The executor is still governed by the same terms of services as the user. For example, the licensed iTunes music is not transferable. Another issue could be privacy for someone famous who would not want surviving heirs to publish intimate details for profit, Mr. Dobbs said. This should all be discussed as part of estate planning.
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