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Michigan bill package tackles digital assets in estate planning

For many people, social media accounts are a big part of their lives. This increase in social media usage has some people wondering what will happen to those accounts when they pass away. For people in Michigan, a five-bill package introduced last month would treat those social media accounts and other digital assets as personal assets for the purpose of estate planning.

Some people are discovering that accessing online accounts of someone who is deceased can be rather difficult. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, a federal act, prohibits the disclosure of content without the owner's consent.

If the proposed legislation passes, it would allow a person's estate to petition the court to gain access to online accounts if the provider of the account fails to do so. Representative Cotter, the person who introduced the package, says that people are "at the mercy of the terms and conditions of a given provider." He says that he is getting feedback from Michigan estate planning and probate attorneys.

For one Michigan man, having access to his wife's social media accounts following her death has helped him in the grieving process. He said that he has included his digital assets, including social media accounts, a blog and financial accounts, in his estate planning.

Anyone who has online accounts of any type should consider giving someone they trust a list of those accounts. In some cases, access codes might also be appropriate information to pass along. The advice of an experienced Michigan estate planning attorney can help you discover ways you can plan for the future of your digital assets when you pass away.

Source: MLive.com, "Live chat recap: Who controls your Facebook page, social media if you die" Shandra Martinez, Mar. 19, 2014

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