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Online archives can be an estate planning headache

The information age has transformed society, and many Florida residents now store their important information and documents online rather than in locked drawers or safe deposit boxes. This trend has made estate planning more complex and more challenging as it takes time for the law to evolve and change in response to technological innovation. These issues are particularly thorny when it comes to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as they are basically assets in digital form.

Even less valuable information like social media posts and stored email can present thorny estate planning problems if it is protected by user names and passwords that heirs and administrators do not have access to. Another legal challenge is determining who owns the information stored in online archives and databases. There are also a large number of companies offering online storage services, which can make tracking down the data of recently deceased individuals a difficult and frustrating experience.

This is a serious issue because the average American owns digital assets worth more than $55,000 according to the computer security firm McAfee. Accessing these assets is often challenging because the terms and conditions individuals agree to when opening online accounts often state that stored information becomes the property of the company providing the service when a user dies. Another problem is the fluid nature of online commerce. Providers that once dominated the market often fall by the wayside when more innovative competitors emerge, which means that decedents often leave behind several dormant accounts.

Attorneys with estate planning experience may seek to avoid these problems by regularly revisiting wills and trusts to ensure that they accurately reflect the client’s estate and include all digital assets. Attorneys could also scrutinize online terms of service to make sure that digital assets and cherished family photographs will be accessible to heirs.

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