I help people decide what they want to do with their property at their death. I write documents that ensure that their wishes can be carried out. As part of my job, I ask people about the property they own. And what I know because of this, is that most people don’t have clue about online property.
It’s important to know what property is yours. That sounds like an unnecessary statement to make, but we actually have a lot of property that we believe is ours, but that actually is not. And that can cause you problems. If not now, it can cause problems later on for the people you thought you left the property to at your death.
Almost everyone has digital property. Online accounts for social media, blogs, websites, email are all types of digital property, as well as any files you place on those accounts. But some of that “property” is not really yours. Take, for example, a facebook account. Most American adults have a facebook account, and many of us use it as a repository for photographs, as well as an ad hoc diary of our life. But the account is not actually owned by you. It is actually owned by Facebook, and they retain nearly all rights to determine if and how you get to keep the account and the files housed there. The practical effect of this is that when you have personally meaningful files stored there, most commonly photographs, you risk losing access to all of them if you do not have backups on your own computer or storage device, such as a flashdrive, hard disk, or CD.
Cloud storage companies are used by many people for their valuable photo and text files. Some act simply as a storage service for files that you retain ownership of. Others may simply be a location to display files but the company has no obligation to make those files accessible to you.
It’s complicated. You must be absolutely sure you know what you are doing when you upload files to the internet, or you must be absolutely sure that you have those files backed up on storage devices within your possession.
Carelessness with your digital property might mean you actually lose your property completely, or that your loved ones cannot get access to it after your death.
If you have questions about your digital property and how to protect it, call the Austin Texas office of Pamela Parker.