Digital heirs and digital assets: estate plans for an online age

On Behalf of | May 20, 2013 | Wills |

A month ago, in our April 15 post, we wrote about Google’s introduction of a dashboard to assist people with making decisions about what happens to their digital data after death. This could include designating someone to serve as “inactive account manager” – or, in more popular terms, a Google heir.

In an age that has been rise to Google driverless cars and Google “glass” (computerized eyewear), this is hardly a far-fetched term. But as big as Google is in its cultural reach, the question of digital heirs goes far beyond any particular company or service provider.

In Massachusetts and across the country, more and more people are tryng to come up with estate plans that integrate all of their online assets.


One good place to start when doing this is to make an inventory of your digital assets. What sorts of information do you already have stored online? And what type of access do you want to allow to particular types of information after you’re gone.

For example, perhaps you discontinued paper statements for your bank account when you began online banking. Going paperless helped you cut down on the clutter. But it also raises the question of who should have access to your bank account information after you’re gone.

In some cases, the answer may be clear: the executor of your estate. But it will still be necessary to make that designation formal enough so that the bank will recognize it. And of course the person you designate will need to have appropriate passwords to gain access. 

This is only one example. There are a host of other types of digital assets that must be taken into account in the estate planning process. We will therefore continue to discuss these issues in upcoming posts.

Source: “‘>Digital assets’: the new frontier for estate planning,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tim Grant, 5-13-13


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