Intellectual Property Attorney

Posthumous Posts and Other Digital Intellectual Property

Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn. We all use these sites or services like them to stay in touch with friends, make business deals, share pictures of our children, and help run our lives. In fact, this past year, the average American spent nearly six hours a day using various forms of digital media including smartphones and computers.

With so much of our lives spent in the cloud, we have to prepare ourselves for a difficult question: what happens to our digital intellectual property when we pass away?

Over half of all Americans aged 55 to 64 don’t have a will. Drop that number down to the 45 to 54 age bracket and the percent of people without a will plummets to a frightening 62%. Even amongst those of us who have created a will, have we considered what will happen to our digital intellectual property when we pass on? Will anyone be able to access our social media accounts? What about our online banking? Does anyone know the password to our computer or how to access our digital family photos? According to a 2013 McAfee study, the average consumer
has more than $35,000 worth of digital assets stored on various devices: assets ranging from digitally purchased movies and music to priceless family photos.

One thing is certain: there is no junk e-mail in heaven, but that does not mean that our loved ones will be free to let our e-mail—whether junk or important tax documents—rest in peace after we have passed on.

Organizing your digital intellectual property is just as important as organizing your finances. To help get you started, we have put together a quick checklist of some of the most popular forms of digital intellectual property. This list is by no means exhaustive and you may need to spend time thinking about your other digital property and how to preserve it for your family and friends.

You should always consult with a qualified attorney to help navigate potential legal issues which may arise from your digital intellectual property estate planning. For example, it may be illegal for your fiduciaries or heirs to access certain online accounts
even if you voluntarily give them your password or account information.

Before you get started, take a moment to think about
how to keep your checklist secure. As we have learned from the Sony password scandal,
keeping all your passwords on a computer file called “Password” or leaving them taped to the underside of your desk can be extremely dangerous. The best approach is to only keep your Digital Intellectual Property checklist in paper copy and to store it alongside a copy of your will in a secure place like your safety deposit box or your attorney’s office. You will also need to periodically update your list—perhaps once per year—as you change passwords and add or delete devices and accounts.

Digital Intellectual Property Form 1 | Computers, Tablets, Phones, and Other Devices

Digital Intellectual Property Form 2 | Banking and Finance

Digital Intellectual Property Form 3 | Commerce & Cloud Storage

Digital Intellectual Property Form 4 | E-Mail & Social Media

Digital Intellectual Property Form 5 | Miscellaneous

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