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Addressing disputes over digital assets

When a loved one passes away, managing their estate can be a daunting task. If it includes digital assets, unique management concerns – and associated disputes – may arise, resulting in an even more complex and stressful set of circumstances for you to deal with. 

Digital assets may include a wide range of electronic properties such as social media accounts, emails, blogs, online storage and digital currencies. Resolving disputes over digital assets requires a careful approach that respects both the legal rights involved and the wishes of the deceased.

What does the will (if any) say?

Oftentimes, individuals may specify instructions for digital assets in their will or estate plan. If such provisions exist, they should guide the resolution of disputes. It’s important to review any digital asset clauses in estate planning documents to determine if the deceased left specific instructions regarding digital content.

Consider appointing a digital executor with the specific role of managing online accounts and digital assets, if one has not already been named. This person would be responsible for executing the digital instructions of the deceased, as stated in their will or estate plan, and could play a consequential role in resolving disputes by ensuring that the decedent’s digital legacy is handled according to their wishes.

If there are still concerns that need resolving

Due to the relatively new nature of digital asset management in estate planning, it can be tough to know exactly how to approach any unresolved sources of contention. In many cases, access to digital content might be governed more by service agreements and privacy laws than by traditional estate law.

Because of the complexities and nuances of digital assets, formal negotiation, mediation or even litigation may prove necessary in resolving ongoing concerns. Seeking legal guidance can help you to exercise your rights and options under the law. 


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