Challenges of digital estate planning

Many tech-savvy Texans don’t realize the problems of the digital domain when it comes to estate planning. Along with the tangled web of cryptic passwords that many of us keep only in our head or on a piece of scratch paper, we also do not frequently consider what happens to the things that we own in the digital space after we are gone. For example, the user agreement from Apple’s popular iTunes store extends only a lifetime license to users who “purchase” songs, television episodes, or movies from them.

This means that when their life ends, so does the right to use that content, which means that the hundreds of hours of music and movies that many of us have amassed over the years are not property in the same sense as a DVD or a record would have been and we cannot pass them on to our children or grandchildren.

Along with our digital purchases, there is also the tricky matter of all of that private correspondence and other information that we store on the web. From photos to short videos to saved emails, computer users today make those large boxes of pictures that grandparents left behind look tiny in comparison to our lasting records.

Enter Google’s new feature, which gives users an opportunity to say what stays, what goes, and what other people can have access to. The feature works by monitoring account inactivity and then disposing of data according to the user’s preference after a designated time period. The company acknowledges that this is an estate planning tool, referring to it as a management system for your “digital afterlife”.

What do you think – would you use a feature like this?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Google Lets Users Plan ‘Digital Afterlife’ By Naming Heirs,” Geoffrey A. Fowler, April 11, 2013

More information about estate planning in Texas is available on our El Paso estate planning page.