Managing Digital Real Estate: Addressing Virtual Property in Your Estate Plan

August 14, 2023

By Noni

Defining Digital Real Estate: In the digital world, virtual property, or digital real estate, refers to intangible assets that hold value in the online realm. It encompasses various forms, including:

  1. Domain Names: Valuable web addresses that represent brands or businesses.
  2. Websites and Blogs: Digital platforms with content, services, or products attracting visitors and generating revenue.
  3. Virtual Worlds: Online gaming environments where players can own virtual land, assets, and currencies.
  4. Social Media Accounts: Accounts with a significant following and brand value.

The Legal Implications of Virtual Property Ownership and Transfer: The legal treatment of digital real estate can be complex, as it often involves international jurisdictions, various terms of service agreements, and intellectual property rights. When incorporating digital real estate into your estate plan, consider the following aspects:

  1. Terms of Service Agreements: Review the terms of each platform to understand how they handle account ownership and transfer after death.
  2. Copyright and Trademarks: Ensure the ownership of digital real estate doesn’t infringe on copyrighted or trademarked material.
  3. Digital Asset Valuation: Determine the monetary value of your digital real estate to facilitate proper distribution and taxation.

Incorporating Digital Real Estate into Your Estate Plan: To manage digital real estate effectively in your estate plan, follow these steps:

  1. Inventory: List all digital real estate assets you own, providing details on ownership, login credentials, and revenue generation.
  2. Appoint a Digital Executor: Designate a digital executor who understands the intricacies of digital real estate.
  3. Communicate Your Wishes: Clearly state how you want each digital real estate asset to be handled, transferred, or monetized after your passing.
  4. Regular Updates: Periodically review and update your estate plan to reflect changes in the digital real estate landscape.

Examples of Famous Cases Involving Digital Real Estate in Estate Disputes: Several high-profile cases have showcased the significance of digital real estate in estate planning:

  1. Inherit the Earth: A court case where a woman left her online gaming estate, including virtual property, to her partner.
  2. Social Media Account Ownership: Instances where heirs fought for control over the social media accounts of deceased loved ones, with differing outcomes based on platform plans.

As the digital world continues to expand, digital real estate becomes increasingly valuable in estate planning. By acknowledging the legal complexities and incorporating digital real estate into your plan, you can protect your digital legacy and ensure your virtual property is managed according to your wishes.