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Protecting digital property in an estate plan

Life can be rather complex. It is difficult to pinpoint all the important facets, especially when it comes to protecting your future and the future for your heirs and beneficiaries. Because we are living in the digital age, estate planning means more than bequeathing your physical property and assets to heirs and named beneficiaries. An estate plan today needs to consider you existence online and how to protect those interests.

Today, individuals in Michigan and other states need to think about their digital footprint and what digital property he or she owns. It is very likely nowadays that individuals of all ages have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or YouTube account. While these are often simply looked at as social media sites used to stay connected with people around the globe, they are also platforms that hold digital property belonging to the account holder.

To some, the content on these sites can be important and sensitive. Thus, digital property can be viewed as a personal asset that will need to be addressed in an estate plan. Laws pertaining to digital property have been passed and are used to govern the disclosure and access to digital information on devices and platforms in the event of incapacitation or death. In general, a person will have to name an agent or a fiduciary in a will in order for that person to access and manage their digital property and digital devices.

Items that fall under the digital property act go well beyond social media sites and the personal content on them. It involves email, cloud storage, and online financial accounts. It should be noted that digital property does not include the underlying property itself. For example, with an online bank account, the digital property would be the account itself and not the money in the account.

Drafting an estate plan means more than deciding who gets what in the event of your incapacitation or death. It means taking steps to protect all forms of property, as well as determining who can have access and control of them. Those considering an estate plan or seeking to update one should understand how including digital property in their plan could provide many benefits.

Source: Bizjournals.com, "Estate planning for digital property: Who will have access to your accounts?" Jacqueline L. Messier, June 19, 2017

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