Friday, April 12, 2013

Google Estate Planning

Facebook has terms of service and mechanisms to allow users to determine what happens with their accounts when they pass away; now Google is joining in. As Slate.com puts it, "in an age where some of our most personal assets live online—our emails, our photos, our social-media identities—few of us stop to think about who will have control over this information."

This raises (at least) two legal questions:

1) Are estate planning attorneys ethically obligated to consider a client's digital data (and potentially valuable intellectual property) when writing a will or creating a trust? Could an attorney be sued for malpractice for failing to account for this digital data?

and

2) What ethical obligations are imposed on attorneys who conduct business in the cloud? How does or should an attorney factor digital data (some of which may be a client's property) into his or her succession planning in the event he or she passes away?