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Digital Estate (Social Media) Issues « Estate Planning


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  • The Beginner’s Guide to Protecting Your Digital Property (9/22/16)
    After you've created something in the world of information technology, how do you safeguard your work from the hordes of ravenous plagiarizers headed your way? How do you make sure that your digital property remains safe and is protected from copyright infringement and reverse engineering?

  • Cybersecurity & IP: Don’t Let Hackers Grab Your Digital Assets (10/23/17)
    What can most companies realistically do to protect their valuable IP from data thieves?

  • DAP Trust: Dealing with your Digital / Online Rights and Propert Correctly (7/28/11)
    Today there is a big hole in most estate plans. Most estate plans do not deal with the property and licence rights that almost all Americans have accumulated with their online lives.

  • Digital Assets and Intestacy 
    Paper by Laura McCarthy that discusses the consequences for individuals who are unaware of their digital assets, or who do not plan for digital asset transfer upon death, defines digital assets and discusses current issues surrounding them in intestacy, discusses existing laws relevant to digital assets, explains the case for intestacy legislation for digital assets, and analyzes alternatives to intestacy legislation for digital assets.

  • Digital Assets Often Forgotten During Estate Planning (Post-Gazette – 8/31/21)
    As economist Mike Moebs planned for his marriage last year, his lawyer pressed him for a complete list of assets. Initially, the frequent-flier miles detailed in his online travel records didn't even cross his mind until his family law attorney recognized the value of an asset he largely manages online. "We gave a lot of thought to the things that I own… I have a half a million miles I haven't used." Mr. Moebs has created an inventory of user names, passwords and answers to security questions for more than 50 accounts, including online bank and investment records, and billing setups for credit cards and phone bills. His family can access them if he dies prematurely or is incapacitated. "I'm revamping my personal and business trusts to include all digital assets and what I want done with them." 

  • Do You Have A Social Media Will? (1/24/17)
    The message from the legal community is this – no matter how old you are, you should have a social media will.

  • Don't Let Your Digital Assets Die Hard (LexisNexis Communities – 10/1/12)
    A recent story in the press reported that Bruce Willis was considering suing Apple, angry that he could not pass along his enormous I-Tunes account to his daughters in his will because he does not own his account, but merely has a license to access the musical library. Although reports of the lawsuit were denied by the Die Hard star, the Willis story is just the lighter side of what has become an increasingly important estate planning issue: making arrangements for the management/disposition of your digital assets when you become incapacitated, or when you die.

  • E-mails and Embryos: 21st Century Estate Planning (Greater Lansing Business Monthly – Christine Caswell)
    As technology speeds along, estate planners need to keep up. Michigan statutes now provide for children conceived through artificial insemination as legal heirs, but what about children conceived after the death of a parent? And what about your online legacies, including blogs, e-mail, Facebook and other Internet accounts? Can your family access these after your death? As always, planning ahead is key to saving your family from additional stress and grief.
    Patti's Comments: I was quoted in this article.
  • Federal Law Needed to Safeguard 'Digital Afterlives' ( – 9/26/12)
    Allowing social networking sites to set their own policies regarding the content associated with the accounts of deceased users does not adequately protect individual and collective interests, especially with people spending an increasing part of their lives online using social networking sites. The current situation is that there's very little law involved. Social networking sites determine on their own what, if anything, to do with a deceased user's account and the materials the user posted to the site. And their policies are not likely to reflect the collective interests that exist with respect to copyright law. It's a little bit like letting the bank decide what to do with your money after you die. A federal statute could impose some requirements upon social networking sites to give users a degree of control over what happens to their accounts. 
  • Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets (3/17/17)
    The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, enacted by several states, provides that fiduciaries may manage web domains and virtual currency, but unless the user has explicitly consented to the fiduciary’s access to E-mail, text messages, and social media accounts in a Will, trust, or power of attorney, the fiduciary may not have access to these forms of digital assets.
  • Postmortem Life On-Line (Naomi Cahn – AmericanBar Assn. July/August 2011)
    What happens to a client’s on-line life when the client can no longer manage it? According to Entrustet, a digital estate planning site, an estimated 408,000 U.S. Facebook users will die in 2011; thousands of others will undoubtedly be disabled. Estate planning attorneys are beginning to request, as part of their estate planning questionnaire, information about a client’s on-line presence.  This means asking not just about the types of assets but also how they are protected.
    Alternate site to download printable article: Social Science Research Network
  • The U.S. Government Wants to Make Sure You've Written Your Social Media Will (The Consumerist – 5/2/12)
    The United States government is hip to social networking, and because it knows all about the Facebook and the Twittering, it wants you to be prepared with a social will in the event of your demise. After all, there have been reports of the families of deceased people having trouble gaining access to those kinds of accounts.

Patti & Marlaine Teahan - from Legal News interview

What Happens to Your Blog After Your Death? ( – 4/23/12)
"The Internet is a fun way to share information," said Patricia E. Kefalas Dudek, "Twitter and Facebook are growing exponentially. People are using them both personally and professionally," but a problem arises when the user dies or becomes disabled. Who can access the accounts and what can they do with them? Dudek suggested answers to those questions to the members of the ICBA probate section at their meeting on April 17th.


  • What Happens to Your Facebook Account When You Die? (The Digital Beyond – 2/7/12)
    It’s a simple question without a simple answer, unless you’re willing to accept “it depends” as a simple answer. The result depends upon what you friends and family decide to request and perhaps even what instructions you leave behind. Let’s go through Facebook’s policy and explore all of the options.
  • What is Your Digital Legacy? (pdf of PowerPoint presentation)
    PowerPoint presentation by Patricia Dudek to the Interdisciplinary Conference sponsored by the Elder Law and Disability Rights Section of the State Bar of Michigan (9/21/11)
  • Have you ever wondered what will happen to your Face book Account or other digital assets if you become disabled or when you die? Are there some personal profiles or digital profiles that you want to LIMIT access to? Then, this presentation and materials is for you…
  • Attachments:
    ♦  General Assignment of Property – Part 1
    ♦  General Assignment of Property – Part 2
    ♦  Client Information/Intake Form
  • Who Inherits Your iTunes Library? (Market Watch – 8/23/12)
    Many of us will accumulate vast libraries of digital books and music over the course of our lifetimes. But when we die, our collections of words and music may expire with us.