Estate planning is not as simple as it once was. With the introduction of the digital world, there are many assets that are floating out in cyberspace that may not be readily known by the loved ones left behind after a death. Maryland residents should take care to let their families know what assets are there and leave a directive in the estate plan to show how he or she would like for those digital assets to be handled after death.
Games, social media, and apps are all out there in the cyberworld and can hold value or can be available for ownership. For instance, Facebook allows their users to give an advance directive to say whether the account will continue to live after the account holder's death. They also let the user establish a legacy contact that decides who, if anyone, will take over the day-to-day administration of the account after their death.
Sometimes online games and apps have ownership issues or even property issues. There are financial considerations in cases such as eBay auctions, which can obligate loved ones to sell property that is in an active auction at the time of death, or a PayPal account, which can be holding funds that belong to the deceased and should be included in the estate finalization. Also, characters, such as those on World of WarCraft, can have value and may be sold and that money should be added to the estate assets.
An estate plan can address any concerns about cyberspace accounts that may be left after the death of a loved one. Maryland attorneys can assist in making arrangements for the distribution of cyber assets at the time of a person's death or incapacitation. Digital estate assets can be just as important as those tangible assets that people take such good care of for their end-of-life circumstances.
Source: The National Law Review, "Estate Planning for the Digital Life", April 3, 2015