I recently received an email from a reader regarding estate planning in a digital age. The reader had seen a news program on planning for digital assets and thought that it was something that I might be interested in. He was right.
I wrote about planning for digital assets a while ago. If you read the column, you might have noticed that I was pretty excited about the subject. It's a whole new exciting area of estate planning and one in which attorneys like myself need to start becoming familiar.
What is estate planning for digital assets you ask? Well its planning for all those things that we do online. For example, it's your email accounts and the pictures that you store online. It's your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It's all of those things that 20 years ago would have sounded like they came from a Star Trek episode.
I don't tweet for even have a Facebook page. I watch my wife on Facebook and it seems like it takes up a lot of time. Plus I'm not sure anyone would really be that interested in following my comings and goings. What if you tweet and no one reads? Ouch.
What I do is read. I read a lot, and most of what I read is in the form of eBooks. I have a pretty substantial library I can carry around in my backpack. Who owns those books if something happens to me? I have some pretty serious cash invested in my books, and I hope that they don't just go away when I die.
This is estate planning for digital assets. Planning for all that stuff that we own but can't lock in a safe or keep in the garage. It's planning for our digital identities.
How do you plan for that you ask? Well, start by thinking about it. What do you want to happen to your email accounts when you die? Do you want to make sure your family sees them, or perhaps you want to make sure that they don't.
Who owns your online pictures when you die? Remember the Internet is forever. If you put that stuff out there, it's out there forever.
One thing the reader pointed out was Indiana is one of a handful of states that have laws addressing digital content as it relates to estate planning. Way to go Indiana. Our little state is on the cutting edge. Now if they'll only let me buy a six-pack of beer on Sunday.
In any case, it's fun to think that there is whole other dimension to plan for. For someone who didn't grow up with the Internet, this is all kind of a mystery. I imagine that law schools are offering courses on this now. I think it is likely the next big thing in estate planning.