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California--based Google introduces digital asset manager

Periodic reviews of California estate plans are necessary to keep legal documents in line with personal, family and financial changes. Anticipated events, like marriage or childbirth, and unfortunate occurrences, like divorce or family death, can have instant effects on estate planning documents.

Drafting estate planning documents takes extensive thought and planning. It makes no sense to throw out all that effort by failing to update wills and associated estate documents.

While making a legal appointment to go over the plan you've already created, add virtual assets to the discussion list. This is a relatively new concern among estate planners who feel current laws do not thoroughly cover post-mortem digital property rights.

Some people manage online estate assets by simply leaving behind usernames and passwords to an executor, trustee or family member. For security and legal reasons, financial, social media and other websites often block access to accounts of deceased users.

Google has come up with an idea for users of the company's multiple online services. A customer-directed feature called "Inactive Account Manager" forwards account data to another source or deletes the account following a set period of inactivity.

Company officials said Google users choose how long an account could be idle before the feature is activated. So a YouTube or Google+ account won't be altered by mistake, customers would receive warning emails that a "timeout" deadline was approaching.

Users also decide where the data is forwarded, whether that person is a named estate beneficiary or someone else.

The feature and others like it would have come in handy a few years ago for the family of a soldier killed in Iraq. Loved ones were forced to go to court over access to the Marine's Yahoo email account. Yahoo denied the family access due to privacy rules in the company's terms of service.

An attorney will provide solutions for smooth passage of digital rights to heirs.

Source: google.com, "Google adds 'digital estate planning' to its services," April 11, 2013

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