Not Your Father’s Record Collection: Passing on Music in a Digital World


My dad was born and grew up in Detroit.   Because of his roots, he has always connected with musicians from Michigan more than others.  In fact, he listened to Bob Seger’s (from the Detroit area) Greatest Hits so many times that he actually wore out his cassette.  So, when my dad eventually gives me his record collection, there won’t be any Bob Seger, but there will be plenty of other albums, tapes and cds.  However, when it comes to my dad’s iTunes collection, it is not just the Bob Seger songs I won’t be able to receive, it’s the whole collection.

The iTunes terms and conditions, you know, that very long set of terms you agree to before downloading a song, movie, etc., only enables an individual account to play digital media on your devices (like an iPod), not the right to transfer the digital media to your loved ones’ accounts.  Thus, you could leave behind a computer with the digital media, but there is no way to transfer your iTunes account to someone else.  It is unclear whether you could authorize indefinite access to your account to your loved ones and if that authorization would be valid after your death.  Songs are usually a dollar; movies can be ten dollars.  For someone growing up now, he or she could be building an iTunes collection over the next 60 or more years.  In the end, that could be a very valuable asset that cannot be transferred upon death.

The fact that my dad, and everyone else, can’t transfer their iTunes accounts is just another way the digital world affects estate planning.   At Altman & Associates we are aware of the issues and committed to learning how to help our clients in light of new technology.

–  Michael Wolsh, Esq.

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