With the recent death of Prince and the revelation he left no will. As writers we want our legacy to be protected so I started this series. Part 1 on the use of a Literary Executor can be found here.
Even before doing the research for this post, I kept a document that is an exhibit in my will that has all my passwords and instructions on what to do for each site: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc… The problem is sharing your password is a violation of many of these sites Terms of Service. This is where a digital inheritance comes into place.
In July 2014 the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) was approved by the Uniform Law Commission. August of the same year, Delaware became the first state to ratify their constitution to allow heirs the right to digital assets. More states are following suit. This Act is necessary because of situations where people have died and their loved ones were not allowed to access their email or social media accounts. In fact with proof of death, the accounts were closed and all data lost. Under this act, who you name in your will can get access to all your digital accounts. Some social media sites, such as Facebook, allow for accounts to become a memorialized account upon proof of death so data is not lost. It is best to research each social media site you are on and validate their terms of service in the event of a customer’s death.
Even if your state does not have Digital Inheritance laws, I would still plan to account for your digital assets as if it did. Eventually all states will catch up to our digital world. Besides the more specific you can be in a will/trust document regarding your digital assets the easier on your loved ones. You may not specifically name a digital heir, but your executor can ensure your heirs have access to your digital assets.
Websites can be bought and sold like a business. As writers many of us will have blogs, websites to account for in our estates. You may have a Facebook Page that earns you some income. If your website or any fan social media site has monetary value, it will need to be treated like you would any property in your will or trust. Leave instructions on what to do with these sites.
What are other possible digital assets?
- iTunes Library
- Kindle Library
- Video Games
- Anything else?
Discussing the above with your estate planning attorney will be critical to your plan and ensuring that your loved ones encounter little difficulty either taking over websites & social media accounts or closing them down.
Please note: I am not an attorney, so any information in this post is for general purposes only and should not be considered as specific legal advice.