ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Digital Assets and Your Estate Plan

According to a 2013 survey conducted as a part of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, approximately 85% of Americans use the Internet.

Out of those users, several have e-mail and social media accounts, blogs, frequent flyer miles and other rewards accounts, and digital photos (“digital assets”). We have become reliant on this technology to connect us to others, share photos and music, stay informed, and generate new content. We e-mail, post, publish, and maintain our virtual identities without giving much consideration to what would happen to our accounts and web pages should we become incapacitated or pass away.

As Facebook ages, for example, more and more users pass away. These deceased users’ profiles are often frozen in time, their last musings and photos, sometimes unflattering, left in place and their virtual walls transformed into a memorial by their loved ones. If the deceased user did not leave behind a password, or if he or she did not live in a state with laws specifically addressing this issue, it could be difficult for his or her loved ones to gain control of and edit the content on these pages.

There is currently no federal legislation regarding digital property; however, a handful of states have passed laws designed to protect individuals’ digital assets and give their families the right to access and manage those accounts. Individuals in states without this legislation are limited by the terms of service or privacy policy of each service that manages the digital assets (e.g., Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr).

In 2013, Virginia passed a very limited piece of legislation permitting the personal representative of a deceased minor to gain access to the minor’s digital accounts and assets upon making a written request to the custodian of the accounts and assets and providing documentation indicating the fiduciary relationship (Virginia Code § 64.2-110). This is a step in the right direction, but it does not apply to deceased adults. Several states have passed laws pertaining to adults; ideally, Virginia would expand its law to include adults, as well.

We strongly recommend that you create a master list of your accounts, log-in information and passwords, to make it easier for your fiduciaries to take control of those assets. Be sure to keep this information in a safe, secure location to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

If you have significant digital assets, give The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. a call. We would be happy to assist you in ensuring individuals are properly named to help manage these accounts in the event you are unable to do so yourself.


Speakers

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Maryland (301) 214-2229
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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Elder Law News, then please e-mail us at office@chroniccareadvocacy.com, telephone us at (703) 243-3200, or fax us at 703-841-9102.

This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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