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Estate planning for digital assets

One of the difficult issues people in New York may have to address after the death or incapacitation of a loved one is how to manage the digital property they owned. This is particularly difficult if the deceased or disabled person made no legal provisions regarding who would be authorized to manage those assets, which may include domain names, email accounts, online storage accounts or social media accounts. Individuals can take certain steps to ensure that their digital property is handled according to their wishes if they are no longer able to so themselves.

It is important that the appropriate people have authorization to the digital assets. Many states have recently enacted versions of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which allows digital property owners to designate access to fiduciaries. Otherwise, the fiduciaries may not be able to access and manage the deceased or incapacitated person's electronic communications and other digital property.

Specific provisions of an estate plan should clearly identify the individuals who are to receive the digital assets upon the owner's death. This is particularly important if the intended individuals are not the individuals who will be receiving financial assets or tangible personal property.

The financial and non-financial value of property has to be taken into account when considering who is to receive digital assets. Specific instructions regarding the management of certain property, such as digital photos, should also be provided, as well as which digital assets should be deleted or destroyed.

An estate planning attorney may advise clients of what estate planning tools are necessary to ensure that their different types of assets are handled according to their preferences after they die. A client may be advised on how certain types of wills, trusts or powers of attorney may be used to protect their assets.

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