Along with the traditional estate planning documents that are prepared for residents of Texas, it is suggested that they must now also consider providing some basic but comprehensive information regarding online assets to their estate planning attorney and their personal representative. At this time, there is no framework of laws that designates what happens to online possessions after one dies. The safest estate planning practice is for the individual to make a written inventory of all online assets and provide that list to the persons who need to find one’s legal documents at death.
There are many potential issues pertaining to one’s interests online. Proprietary business or literary products, manuscripts, contracts and the like may now be stored on one’s hard drive and, more often these days, with a copy in the cloud. Proof of purchases, leases and other ownership documents may also be stored in areas that only the owner would guess to look, and be able to access.
Of course, there is the memorabilia, photos and correspondences of every nature that may be found on one’s Facebook, Amazon, and Ebay accounts, and on a myriad of other websites. On one’s death, the personal representative designated in the will and trust documents will need to collect everything and dispose of it according to the individual’s instructions. The decedent’s job will have remained only partially finished if property and proprietary interests are allowed to languish online for eternity, or to be the subject of costly litigation.
Thus, it is important to prepare a hard copy list of all online assets and other possessions, with instructions on how to close out each matter, including with passwords and user names. As time goes on, laws in Texas and elsewhere may help facilitate the personal representative’s job with respect to online matters. However, rules and regulations are unlikely to equal the simplicity and efficiency that can be established through advance planning by the individual while living. This information should be included with the estate planning package of documents, and a copy given to the attorney and the personal representative.
Source: fdlreporter.com, “Tips for estate planning and digital assets“, Isabell Mueller, Feb. 28, 2016