Do You Print Photos Anymore?

The probate and trust world is abuzz with concerns around “digital estate planning,” and while I think relatively few clients have significant net worth in the cloud, nearly all of them have stored some things digitally, whether on a local hard drive or on the internet, that their heirs might want to keep.

Digital photos, emails, texts and Tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts and Pinterest pins—all of these typically capture facets of a person’s temperament, activities, and psyche that used to be preserved only in physical objects. The fact that they are digital means they can be lost or preserved in different ways than the framed prints and shoeboxes of letters. No doubt some entrepreneurs have already realized that there is a market for handsome ways to preserve digital assets, such as the “oak veneer boxes” designed to hold digital devices and display their contents on embedded screens by researchers looking at how people are dealing with the digital remnants of their deceased loved ones’ lives.

In a telling and intensely sad comment in the linked article, one woman said her lost loved one’s digital assets “deserved better” than to be stamped onto a CD. Is there anything more fascinating than human ingenuity, including our ability as embodied beings to create a digital life—or more fascinating than our response to the end of the physical life and the continuation of the digital assets bought, stored, and made during that life?

Whether you are running a business through an email account, write for a blog site that may be or become profitable through ad revenues, or simply have gone all digital and know the sentimental value your family will place on the many social media, photo storage, and mp3 accounts you’ve created: have you put sufficient thought into designating beneficiaries of these assets? Have you read the user agreements, so that you know what it will take for your personal representative to gain access and distribute them, if possible? Have you considered which assets you wish simply to disappear when you’ve gone, or which you might wish only select people to know about? And these questions don’t even get to the accounts with online-only access with obvious financial value, such as those with an internet bank.

If you’d like help navigating the brave new world of estate planning in the digital age, please call me with your questions.

A. E. King, J.D.
Attorney at Law
Shoreview, MN