Handling the transfer of digital property after death is not something that most people think about. Nevertheless, your photos of the family or videos of once-in-a-lifetime experiences can disappear if they are not protected. Fortunately, a new estate-planning device can facilitate the transfer of these electronic assets.
Recently, Google released a new system for users of Gmail, Google+, cloud storage Drive and other services, which allows people to preserve their data after they pass. In other words, the software lets people do some digital estate planning for all of their electronic assets.
The system lets users choose to delete data after three, six, nine or 12 total months after inactivity. However, users may also pass the data from accounts along to other people (the digital “beneficiaries”). In other words, the photos and videos that a person would like to keep in the family can now be preserved. According to Google’s product manager, the feature will help people plan for their digital afterlife.
Due to U.S. privacy laws, many major Internet technologies do not permit individuals to transfer control of accounts to heirs, even if this desire is expressed in a will. Even so, lawmakers are increasingly looking into electronic property legislation. In this case, Google’s new system is not a transfer of control – it is a transfer of digital property (the actual data). For this reason, the system works within the specs of the law.
If you have questions about the transfer of your wealth, you may benefit from speaking to a qualified estate-planning attorney in your area. You have many options, such as the one above, which can make the probate process much easier for your anticipated beneficiaries. A lawyer can help fill you in on the possibilities.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Google Lets Users Plan ‘Digital Afterlife’ By Naming Heirs,” Geoffrey A. Fowler, April 11, 2013