Legislature Discussing How to Distribute Virtual Assets When a Person Dies

We're all familiar with the process...when a loved one dies, the family gathers to read the person's will, and determine how the property, from real estate to cash, will be divided up among the heirs.

But, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports, there is quickly another asset in question...the digital assets of the deceased, and the Texas Legislature is attempting to come up with ways to make sure those increasingly valuable assets are included in probate cases.

These can include huge libraries of hundreds of songs and movies, to virtual currently like Bitcoin, to less valuable but still significant items like family photos.

San Antonio probate attorney Harry Wolff urged a State Senate committee to come to an agreement on how those assets should be distributed.

"Assets that used to be kept in a safety deposit box or in a shoebox in the closet are now stored in the cloud, and are only accessible with a user name and a password," he said.

Wolff says there are laws allowing heirs and attorneys access to the safe deposit boxes of the deceased.  He says similar laws are needed to protect digital assets.

"There is very little case law, and, quite frankly, we don't have very many war stories to discuss about how this is actually working in our day to day practices," he said.

In addition to allowing probate lawyers and heirs access to user names and passwords, Wolff said now that more and more valuables are being stored on line, there needs to be a state law covering the disposition of virtual possessions when a person dies.


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