You love to watch movies and you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in a massive collection. You want to pass this collection on in your will. You’d like to give it to your children along with all of your other multimedia equipment, such as a surround sound system, a big-screen TV, video game systems and much more.
With all of these physical assets, it feels fairly straightforward. You can just list the items in your will, choosing which heirs will receive them. But a lot of the movies that you own are ones that you downloaded from an online content provider. How do you pass on a digital product?
You might not be able to do so
The unfortunate truth is that you may not be able to pass those movies on to the next generation. In many cases, the terms from the content provider say that you’re not buying the movie at all. Instead, they sell you a license that works forever, but it’s only valid for you. It may look like it costs just as much as buying the movie, but you’re really just paying for the license so that you can stream the movie through that service provider.
In a situation like that, it means you can watch the movie for the rest of your life, but you don’t own any sort of asset that you can give to someone else. You can’t transfer ownership or share your passwords. Most of that is probably prohibited in the terms of the agreement as well, so it’s very important to check before you do anything.
Digital assets are becoming more common, so this is a question that’s only going to come up more often in the future. Make sure you know exactly where you stand and what steps you need to take to create the ideal estate plan for you and your family.