This following article titled “In Support of Sensible Legislation on Digital Assets” is featured in the October 2014 issue of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association‘s Valley Lawyer Magazine (view pdf):
For the past ten or so years, new articles have abounded regarding the difﬁculty in accessing the digital records of the dearly departed. Famous examples include:
Justin Ellsworth, the U.S. Marine who was killed while serving in Fallujah, and his father’s desperate pleas to access his Yahoo account, which were denied.
Karen Williams, whose 22-year-old son was killed in a motorcycle accident, and her desire to access his Facebook account, which was also refused.
Both parents were faced with bureaucratic roadblocks during a time when emotions were already being pushed to their limits.
Continuing from last month’s post (The Care and Preservation of Your Digital Assets), digital assets do not necessarily have to have monetary value. Many people store their modern day diaries i.e. blogs or similar writings on their computers, along with photographs and other matters of sentimental value. In a famous but tragic case, a young marine deployed in Iraq wrote regularly on his Yahoo! account (email and blog) about his experiences. He was killed in action and his mother wanted access to his account so she would have a record of his writings about his service. Yahoo’s policy was to delete the accounts of a deceased user. Without a plan for dealing with his digital assets, his mother had to go to the probate court, which while it ultimately ordered Yahoo to turn over copies of the emails, did not give the family access to his account.
Pets receiving an inheritance! It may sound extreme, but planning for your pet’s future is not about money, it is about security for both of you. Just as responsible parents plan in advance to appoint a guardian to care for their children, responsible pet owners need to plan in advance for their pets. If you are a pet owner, you should have two plans in place:
1) If you are unable to properly care for your pet due to an illness or other incapacity
2) If you are unable to properly care for your pet due to your death.
According to ASPCA, approximately 62% of households in the United States have at least one pet. Yet, only 17% of pet owners have taken legal steps for their pet’s protection. There are some very easy and cost-effective options which you can take advantage of now. Don’t delay, your pets are counting on you!
Option 1 (Every pet owner must do this):
Carry a Pet Identification Card with you at all times. This can either be a physical card that you carry in your wallet or purse, or additional information contained in your I.C.E. (In case of Emergency) contact on your cell phone. The information on the Pet Identification Card should include:
a) a picture of your pet
b) the pet’s name
c) the location of the pet
d) any special needs of your pet
e) who to contact to take care of the pet. This card can advise a police officer or other emergency personnel that you have a pet that also needs assistance.
If you do not have a trust there will undoubtedly be a probate proceeding upon your death. Probate is a court supervised proceeding necessary to transfer your assets to your heirs. The probate proceeding is costly in terms of both time and money. Furthermore, all probate proceedings are public record.
Having a trust in place insures a less costly and smoother transition of assets to their designated heirs.
Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Bel Air, Canoga Park, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Calabasas, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Ventura, Oxnard, Valencia, and throughout Southern California in such counties as Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Ventura County.