Young people aren’t the only ones using social media.
People of all ages are using social media to share information, build and maintain relationships, and keep in touch with family and friends, primarily through sharing digital photos and videos. Many people have also created music or book collections that are entirely digital. These collections may contain thousands of dollars’ worth of books and music, but they can only be accessed digitally.
The exact means of access may be different depending on the specific type of media, but one thing they have in common is that access usually requires a login or password.
What is also common is that, depending on the media provider, getting access to these items after the death of the account owner can be difficult or impossible.
Family members are often anxious about receiving photos, home videos, journals, music and books of a deceased person, but find that the means for obtaining this information is difficult at best. The laws affecting the rights to these digital assets are having difficulty keeping up with the advances in technology and the development of social media.
It is clear that digital assets and social media are ever evolving.
As estate planners, we can provide a valuable service to our clients by helping to guide them in arranging for the transfer of these important digital assets. However, until the laws affecting these assets and the policies of the media providers becomes more stabilized and established, finding good resources to keep updated and informed as these issues develop is especially important to be able to properly advise clients.
The Digital Beyond is one helpful resource in this area. The “Legal” tab is chalk full of helpful articles and information for the “digital afterlife.” A good estate planner should be able to assist their clients with tangible assets, and navigate the waters of digital assets.