We understand the necessity to transfer property when we die—the need to prepare through a Will, or Trust, or by Title for our physical things to belong to someone else.
So we prepare a Will, designating a personal representative to effectuate these transfers to the appropriate designated persons, or prepare a Trust to control the property and avoid the issues of Probate. Of course, parents of children are concerned regarding who will be taking care of their children, and how their assets will be distributed at the appropriate age.
But our culture is changing.
With the advent of the internet, and the ability to capture our lives with the camera we carry, more and more of our personal possessions are no longer in a closet or on a shelf—they exist in the nebulous world of iCloud, or the ‘Net.
Your personal life is recorded on Facebook, your business resume on LinkedIn; your music is stored on iTunes, your video library held by Amazon, your documents on Google Docs. What happens to these digital assets when you die?
Michigan recently introduced House Bill No. 5370, designed to address this problem. While it is only a proposed bill, it is definitely a step in the right direction and should be included within your Estate Planning. The Bill allows a Trustee to request, from the Digital Provider, access, ownership or a copy of the Digital Property.
If the Digital Provider does not comply, the Trustee may petition the court to order compliance. This way, if the Trustee does not have the appropriate password, or ability to obtain the digital information, the Trustee can obtain the information by valid request.
We have seen numerous situations when a person passes, the grieving family does not know or have a means to obtain the password to obtain this pertinent information. This is why we have incorporated both the Digital Provider language into our Trusts, as well as require our clients to provide a list of their important passwords in encrypted format.
It will be interesting to see where this leads, and how the law will continue to react to the changes in our ever-developing digital world.
Call 248.643.9530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.