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Digital asset protection for Texas residents

Most people want to create an estate plan to protect assets such as property, insurance policies and retirement accounts. What about Texas residents who have digital assets? There are steps that can be taken for digital asset protection.

A vast amount of individuals perform tasks online and end up creating digital assets. Digital assets are media or text that includes rights to use it. Digital assets include email accounts, online blogs and online social media. Other digital assets are online bank accounts and online shopping accounts. Upon someone's death, family members tend to pursue accessing these assets.

An example of this is a family of a deceased veteran who wishes to access his private email accounts for sentimental purposes. Obstacles have stood in the way of accessing these digital assets leading many to file lawsuits against internet companies such as Google and Facebook. According to the Federal Stored Communications Act, an account owner's privacy is protected and it is a crime for these companies to grant access to anyone else without permission from the account holder. To avoid this, grantors may inventory all of their online accounts, including passwords so family members can have access after death

Texas residents may assign ownership to some of their digital assets to someone they trust through a will, power of attorney or living trust. Individuals may also include special provisions within those documents that give a trustee or agent certain powers to access digital assets. It's important to read the end user license agreement and terms of use with online companies. These agreements may be different depending on which company a person has a digital account with. These and other safeguards can be implemented to increase the chances of digital asset protection.

Source: lakeconews.com, Estate Planning: Protecting digital assets, Dennis Fordham, March. 8, 2014

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