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Digital assets can be included in wills

When someone in New York passes away with no will, the state will determine how the person's assets will be distributed. However, the majority of courts have not created rules regarding the distribution of digital assets, including social network accounts and/or email accounts. For this reason, addressing these types of assets in wills is an important part of the estate planning process.

Many consumers have online assets that are linked to Amazon, PayPal or eBay. The owners of businesses also often store essential information on their computers. Furthermore, they usually have domain names or blogs that are accessible only with an email address or password. Providing instructions in a will for how to deal with such digital assets can be helpful.

Still, even when such instructions are available, other legal obstacles exist. For instance, even though an online user's family member has the username and password to a certain account with the consent of the user, this family member may still be violating laws when he or she accesses the user's account. After all, several social media companies have contracts designed to protect their users' privacy.

Until legislation is created that makes it okay to access various online accounts with the account owners' consent, including all of these accounts in wills offers the best protection of these assets. Otherwise, these digital assets may end up being lost and inaccessible. An attorney in New York can help with drafting wills that effectively meet the will creators' specific needs and wishes long term.

Source: mvprogress.com, "Digital Assets and Estate Planning", Jeffrey J. McKenna, June 7, 2017

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