How digital data can be handled after one's death

Google’s innovations continue to amaze consumers and intrigue investors. Much has been said about its development of autonomous cars that will allow drivers to sit back and leave the driving to an onboard computer. Indeed, pieces of autonomous driving components can be seen in today’s vehicles (e.g. lane departure warning systems, self-parking mechanisms).

The tech-giant has also released a cache of products that will allow users to designate how stored data will be distributed after they pass away. While some are calling the offerings “Google Heirs” in line with its other products (e.g. Google Chrome, Google Glass, etc.), the company has only referred to it as its “Inactive Account Manager.”

Planning for the distribution or deletion of online data is something that most people don’t think about when creating an estate plan, but it can create a number of issues for executors and family members who may need information to resolve questions left by the deceased. Also, some providers may not have policies that dictate who may have control over the data in an account after the owner passes.

For estate planning attorneys, the question of handling digital data is becoming increasingly common, given how many more people have social media accounts, rely on cloud based services, and the proliferation of passwords for access to different websites. Because of this, ownership of electronic information is destined to be a part of future estate plans. With the inherent conflicts with privacy laws, permission to handle posthumous accounts is an important consideration that should be detailed in a will.

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