The attorneys also cite the scarcity of state and federal regulations addressing digital assets. As of early 2012, only a handful of states had a law on the books. “New laws and regulations can make everything so far totally useless,” Weisman says. “Entrustet mentions that you may need a will or a trust. Well, sure, you can do that yourself — but then again, you can also take out your own appendix with a pen knife.”
Russell J. Fishkind, a partner at the firm of Saul Ewing LLP and an adjunct associate professor at New York University, notes that “at first blush, you’d say, ‘What a great idea.’ ” At the same time, he worries about the staying power of companies of this type: “I’m 50 and my life expectancy is 85. Am I gonna get there? If I do, 35 years from now, are these systems still going to be in place?”
Thus the short-term future of digital-estate planning and legacy preservation is largely unshaped. Tech-minded individuals will embrace the idea or they won’t; states will enact laws that address such assets or they won’t. In the long term, most pundits believe that our digital lives — and afterlives — will meld naturally with analog ones.
“Fifteen or 20 years down the road, this won’t be a special place,” Carroll says. “Digital assets will just be another asset we think about. They’ll be a part of who we are and what we do.”