With fascination I have been watching the virtual worlds evolution. Not that watching the physical worlds evolution isnt enough to keep me amused, mind you.
As the virtual continues to augment and in some cases replace the real, an interesting situation is arising that all of us should consider. That is the issue of virtual assets ownership beyond the original owners death.
Increasingly, upon a persons death, lawyers must address the issue of which next of kin owns which digital assets. For example, if the deceased had a LinkedIn profile primarily used for cultivating business contacts and leads, might another business associate or family member wish to assume control of that account to extract its content value prior to its deletion? Play out that same scenario with all its potential ramifications for a virtual farm in Farmville, a personal blog, a virtual store in Second Life, the influence of a Twitter account, a Web site, or a powerful character in World of Warcraft.
Another difficult situation arises when marriages dissolve. Attorneys already report squabbles among clients when a divorce occurs and the two parties argue over who can or cannot retain certain friends on Facebook. The possible conflicts are endless.
I certainly dont claim to have all the answers on this one. It will be interesting to watch though. Meanwhile, now is probably as good a time as ever to begin thinking about your virtual estate planning.
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