The First Digital Asset Law Goes into Effect

digital asset, digital asset law, digital estate plan, DuPage County estate planning attorney, digital property, online musical libraries, kindle collections, social media accounts, computer source codes, software licensesYears ago, when a person passed away, personal property and documentation were tangible items. Items such as book and record collections, photographs, and important paperwork were all items that could be physically touched and handed to the person who was inheriting them.

In today’s electronic world, however, many people own a multitude of digital assets and records. The question thus becomes, who is the owner of these this digital property when the owner of record dies? What happens to online musical libraries, kindle collections, social media accounts, and cloud storage files?

Many courts have struggled with that answer in the past, but the state of Delaware may have come up with a solution with a first of its kind digital asset law. Called the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act, the law provides a way for families to access a loved one’s digital assets should the person become incapacitated or die. The law allows access to these assets by fiduciaries or heirs of a person’s estate.

Delaware lawmakers based the bill on model legislation that was developed earlier this year by the Uniform Law Commission. The commission urged all states to adopt the model in order to have uniform laws governing digital assets across the country. But so far, only Delaware has passed legislation. This means that the law only applies to wills which are governed by the state of Delaware. However, this legislation could be passed in any other state, and is definitely important to consider. Only time will tell.

A person’s digital property, including social media content, emails, video, audio, sounds, images, computer programs, software, computer source codes and software licenses, will all be covered in the new law. Currently, if a person has accounts with companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google or Yahoo, access to those accounts end upon the person’s death. But the Delaware law changes that, stating, “A fiduciary with authority over digital assets or digital accounts of an account holder under this chapter shall have the same access as the account holder, and is deemed to (i) have the lawful consent of the account holder and (ii) be an authorized user under all applicable state and federal law and regulations and any end user license agreement.”

Including your digital assets in with your estate planning is a fairly new idea, but one which people should begin to address. An experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney can help you decide the best course of legal action to take to ensure that all your assets, digital included, go to those desired. Contact us today.

The Role of an Executor

When drawing up a will, one of the most important decisions that need to be made is who will serve as the executor of the estate. The executor is the person who will be in charge of ensuring that your last wishes are carried out.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, there are several things that an executor is responsible for. The very first thing the executor needs to do is to file the will with the court in order to begin probating the estate.

The next step is to locate and take an inventory of all the estate’s assets in order to determine the value of all the assets. An executor is also responsible for paying any bills the estate owes, such as funeral costs or taxes. He or she must also make notifications to any government agencies (such as Social Security or Veterans Administration), banks, credit card companies and the post office that the person has died.

Executors are responsible for locating and notifying all the heirs of the estate. They are responsible for notifying the public that the estate is being probated, usually via legal notices in the newspaper. And if someone comes forward to file a claim to the estate, it falls to the executor to protect the estate against those challenges.

The final duties of the executor are to file final income taxes for the estate and then to disburse all assets to the rightful heirs.

Typically, people name a trusted family member or a close friend as their executor.  Other options are naming a trust company or bank to oversee your estate. Whoever is named executor is entitled to a fee for the work they do for the estate. In Illinois, that fee can range anywhere between 1 and 5 percent of the estate’s value.

There are many important decisions to make when drawing up a will. It’s also important to have an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney working with you to make sure that all your final wishes will be correctly written out in your will.