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Estate planning for a New Jersey resident's digital estate

These days, many New Jersey residents have active online lives. Facebook pages, iTunes accounts and other online accounts require some estate planning in order to be dealt with accurately after a person's death. Without some advance planning, surviving family members could encounter considerable issues trying to identify and deal with a deceased person's digital assets.

Some accounts are more difficult to access than others after a loved one passes away. So far, no laws exist regarding the disposition of these accounts. Therefore, family members are left with the rules established by the online service provider. They ordinarily strive to comply with privacy laws and may not be user friendly for an executor. As this issue becomes more prevalent, however, many services are changing their terms in order to allow access to the accounts of a decedent under certain circumstances.

The first step in managing a digital estate is to make a list of online accounts. Whether or not a username and password are provided depends on the wishes of the person using the account. In some cases, a person may not want family members reading emails and other private communications. In that case, a simple instruction to have the account deleted may be sufficient. It may be a good idea not to put this information in a will since it may become a public record.

For some, it may be appropriate to appoint a separate executor for digital assets. For instance, some people may not be computer savvy enough to understand the intricacies of the accounts. This person could be given the power to do whatever is either desired or necessary with each account within the limitations of the service provider's terms of service.

New Jersey residents have a lot to consider when estate planning, and what may happen to digital assets should be taken into consideration as well. Some of these assets may have no monetary value but could have sentimental value for family members or friends. Providing the pertinent information and guidelines regarding an individual's wishes with regard to these assets could make things easier to take care of when necessary.

Source: marketwatch.com, Who gets your digital fortune when you die?, Andrea Coombes, Jan. 10, 2014

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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
Representing clients in Ocean City and communities throughout New Jersey.


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