When the average Minnesotan begins the estate planning process, the first assets that they consider are often cash and investments, along with tangible assets like cars, homes, or valuable art or jewelry. These are the core types of things that we think about when contemplating passing something down to the next generation but these days tangible items are not the only things we should be concerned about. Where we once simply handed over albums full of family photos, now we maintain our archives digitally, often using social media tools like Facebook to chronicle our lives.
Unlike a photo album, one cannot simply hand over control of a Facebook account by giving a relative the password. Facebook has strict terms of service that dictate what happens when an account holder passes away, and without proper planning those terms can take hold and prevent family members from accessing the digital archives stored on the Facebook servers.
In addition to online assets with sentimental value, some of our digital footprint also has monetary value. For example, someone may have a blog that brings in substantial profits from advertising that they wish to pass down to their loved ones or leave to a business associate. A person might also have a Paypal account with substantial sums stored in it, or they could be holding some digital currency like Bitcoins. The important thing to remember about all of these types of accounts is that every company you work with has their own unique terms of service that must be addressed when creating the digital portion of your estate plan.
Source: USA Today, “Estate plan should pass down digital heirlooms,” Sue Doefler, April 17, 2014.