Recently, legislatures in many states have debated about what to do with a person’s digital assets after the owner passes away. It is not an easy debate to settle as powerful arguments are made on both sides. Illinois is the latest state to wade into these deep waters.
By default, the law does not treat digital assets the same way that it treats physical assets. After a person passes away, physical assets become part of the estate. Executors and loved ones are given access to the physical assets to dispose of them in accordance with an estate plan.
However, treatment of digital assets is determined by the terms of service of online companies.
This creates problems for executors who often need access to the digital assets to properly administer the estate as many technology companies make that access incredibly difficult to get.
Throughout the country state legislatures have debated this problem in an effort to reach a solution. The latest to do so is Illinois.
Its legislature is currently taking up a bill that would treat digital assets as physical assets, which would allow a court to appoint a trustee to access them. The bill is strongly opposed by technology companies and privacy groups who think the bill would be a violation of the deceased’s privacy.
The State Journal Register has more on the debate in Illinois in an article titled “Bill would treat deceased’s online accounts like physical assets.”
This is not a debate that is going away soon.
It will likely take years for any sort of consensus to develop throughout the country. In the meantime, it is important to talk to your estate planning attorney about what you can do to ensure that your digital assets are handled appropriately in your estate.
Reference: State Journal Register (April 5, 2015) “Bill would treat deceased’s online accounts like physical assets.”
I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.
The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!
Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.
Josh Nelson, and his staff, have been amazingly helpful to our family. The ins and outs of nursing homes, the rules and regulations that govern Medicare and Medicaid are daunting and the folks at Nelson Elder Care Law have been informative, responsive, and above all, empathetic. I cannot emphasize enough how their service has taken a weight off of our shoulders especially during a world pandemic that has targeted nursing homes across our country. I highly recommend retaining Josh and his firm!
I had a simple legal question to them that I needed answered and they very helpful in giving me the information I needed. I highly recommend them and will reach out to them if I need more advice or assistance. Thank you for taking your time to just answer a couple of questions I had!