Estate planning has taken an interesting turn as culture shifts towards greater digital dependency. Entire lives are documented through photos, emails, and social network sites. This brings an interesting question to light for Nevada readers in the event that one passes away and their digital property is not specifically mentioned in their estate planning. What happens to their digital lives after they are gone?
The mega search engine Google is now offering a type of digital estate planning for those who have things that they wish to preserve after they are gone. This would enable a user to input into an account manager what they wish happen to their accounts after a time of inactivity has passed. Nevada readers will note that the primary account holder would indicate if they wish for their digital belonging passed to another person or simply deleted from cyberspace.
This type of estate planning is important for those have a significant amount of online property with which to be concerned. It would be entirely the decision of the user how long Google would wait before assuming that their accounts were no longer used. This service also includes a reminder to the owner of the property before their accounts and information expires, in case of a mistake.
As the digital generation ages, age this type of estate planning will become more predominant and necessary. There is an entire generation who trusts their entire lives to be saved on the Internet “cloud,” with no thought as to what becomes of their digital property. Digital rights are still murky waters for lawmakers, making it the responsibility of the individual to protect their own property.
There have been court cases that deal with the subject of digital rights after a family member has died. Unfortunately, it is a complicated proceeding with little legal precedence. As more digital estate planning such as Google’s becomes available, it might become for prudent for one to have separate documentation regarding digital property for the sake of clarity and simplicity.
Source: phys.org, “Google adds ‘digital estate planning’ to its services,” April 11, 2013