It is something that many people in west Texas haven’t thought about, but what happens to online banking, email or Facebook after someone dies? If the individual didn’t leave the login information, the data and sometimes the value of the digital property may be lost forever, but not if the individual had a thorough estate plan in place.
So, should someone leave all of his or her usernames and passwords in a will? No. Because wills can be made public, any login information should be written out in a separate letter and the letter can be inherited by a family member or friend.
But what about the pieces of digital media that rely on a license?
If something has a license, it cannot be inherited. This means that if someone wants to not only give access, but allow something online to continue, the license may need to be put into a trust. This would allow the license to continue on, even after the original owner had died. Many states, including Texas, do not have laws on the books that protect digital property. If Texas does go down this route, it may wish to give a fiduciary the right to distribute an individual’s online property.
Even though someone may not think about who should inherit online assets, there are more and more people asking about what will happen to their social media or digital assets after they die. Through traditional estate planning, individuals may have reliable ways to preserve their property and pass it on after death.
Source: TheWall Street Journal, “Make Sure You Know Who Will Inherit Your Twitter Account,” Arden Dale, Sept. 18, 2013