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Estate planning in the digital age

Due to the increasing use of the Internet to store personal documents and media and to communicate with others, it has become important for Florida residents to make digital assets a part of their estate planning. When people think about estate planning, their minds tend to go to things like wills or estate taxes, but digital assets can also have emotional and monetary value. If someone does not make plans for these assets after their death, they may be lost.

Many people are using online photo albums instead of printing pictures and creating hard-copy photo albums. These online pictures and videos may have no monetary value, but they can mean a lot to an individual's friends and family. Additionally, some media assets, like music, movies and TV shows, can be stored on computers and used by others. However, unless these assets are listed as part of someone's estate, heirs may not be aware of them or able to find them.

Since digital assets and passing them on have become a growing concern, Internet services have started creating systems to help people manage files and account logins. Google has made it possible for people to share assets with individuals automatically after a length of inactivity set by the user. Other services will store user names and passwords for Internet accounts and transfer them to an individual's heirs after they pass on.

It is important that estate planning documents are set up properly so that an individual's friends and family can avoid probate. A lawyer may be able to help someone understand what estate planning documents do and assist them in setting up documents that are as beneficial to their heirs as possible.

Source: The New York Times, "Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife", Anne Eisenberg, May 25, 2013

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