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When You Pass on, Don't Leave the Passwords Behind: Planning for Digital Assets

Probate & Property, Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 40, January/February 2012

5 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2012  

Gerry W. Beyer

Texas Tech University School of Law

Naomi Cahn

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: January 1, 2012

Abstract

The universe of digital assets is vast, including email accounts, picture and video storage sites, social networking sites, domain names, games and related sites; professional sites and backups; as well as online banking and business accounts. Moreover, digital assets go beyond online accounts to include your own personal or work computers, their hardware and software. If your clients are smart about their digital life, then they have numerous usernames, passwords, and security questions for their accounts.

Trust and estates lawyers are increasingly helping to plan for the care of digital assets upon their client’s incapacity or death, providing advice concerning both the safekeeping of usernames and passwords and the disposition of the assets themselves. Each of these issues requires different techniques from the estate planning toolbox. Lawyers provide this planning for new clients, and they may often follow up with previous clients to ensure a periodic review of the disposition of these assets.

This article discusses the reasons to engage in digital asset planning, the steps to plan for digital assets, the obstacles to planning for digital assets, and concludes by looking at what the future may hold.

Keywords: digital assets, wills, trusts, estate planning, passwords, computers, disability, death

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Beyer, Gerry W. and Cahn, Naomi, When You Pass on, Don't Leave the Passwords Behind: Planning for Digital Assets (January 1, 2012). Probate & Property, Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 40, January/February 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1980887

Gerry W. Beyer (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University School of Law ( email )

1802 Hartford
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States
806-834-4270 (Phone)
978-285-7941 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ProfessorBeyer.com

Naomi R. Cahn

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-6025 (Phone)
202-994-5614 (Fax)

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