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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Googling Google - MSBA Tech Talk

As some readers know, Reality Bytes originates from blog posts online at

It takes a while for these posts to reach print readers in the Maryland State Bar Association ("MSBA") Section of Estate and Trust Law Newsletter, which can be found online at the MSBA website at this link:, under the section labeled "Media."  You can also find a link the Reality Bytes blog there if you want to sign up.

If you have gotten this far, what I really wanted to tell you is that the MSBA also has a wonderful technology resource called Tech Talk, which appears periodically in the MSBA's electronic newsletter Bar Brief, found at this URL:  Look for the link to Tech Talk at the bottom of each issue of Bar Brief.

As I write this post, the current edition of Tech Talk ( (March, 2014) features a very informative and practical guide to certain more obscure features of Google.  For example:

Google Public Data Explorer - The Google Public Data Explorer allows users to upload their own data sets for visualization and exploration. It makes large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate.
 Undo a Sent Message – (One of the Experiments) You can set Gmail to wait 10 seconds before sending a message in case you want to stop it. Go to Settings, Labs and scroll down to Undo Send and click on Enable.
There are other tips on using Google. Google is an important part of our lives, perhaps in more ways that we realize.  Whether we are using it or not, we likely have a digital presence and others use Google to find out things about us.  So, go to Tech Talk and see other Google Tips for yourself.  Then, go Google yourself and see what you find!

If you are an MSBA member and like Tech Talk, you should be getting a periodic email each month from the MSBA alerting you to new editions of Tech Talk (unless you opt out of receiving the email).  If you would rather check out new Tech Talk posts on your own, it comes out every fourth Tuesday of the month.  Go to the links above for the Bar Brief and check it out.

And, if you are tired of trying to write down all these long URLs, consider reading this column as a blog online (, where you can find hyperlinks. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nano-Byte: Words

Even in cyberspace, words are still important and cyberspace is contributing to our language every day.  So check out an interesting post from Peter Lewis, who covers this point and more much better than I could:  The 2013 Word of the Year.

Notice how language is being expanded by technology.  Please be warned of sensitive material when you get to "twerkette", a word my spellchecker does not recognize yet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blawg Time - Vote for Your Best Legal Blog (Blawg).

Forget the legislative stalemate in Washington.  Forget Obamacare.  It is time to vote for something important - the best of the American Bar Association's selection of law and law related blogs (which the ABA has dubbed "blawgs"). Click on the to the following link to ABA,s webpage where you a review the ABA's choices and vote.  ABA Top 100 Blawgs.

These are likely all great blogs.  I have followed a few and may follow a few more after looking at this year's list.  Here are a sample of what caught my attention (without endorsement, except for Taxgirl and Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog, both of which are very good):

While this blog's most popular posts help female readers steer clear of the fashion police, former Wall Street lawyer Kat Griffin also takes questions from young lawyers and others about how to avoid career pitfalls. Posts written with empathy cover business etiquette, troubles with co-workers, interviewing, networking and more.

The Droid Lawyer
"The Droid Lawyer provides practical tips that help attorneys sort through the ever-growing mountain of apps and hardware upgrades and identify those that can actually make life easier. Whether I'm making a checklist of documents for closing a deal or a list of books that I want to read on my tablet during vacation, the Droid Lawyer helps me find the right tool for the job." —Jim Singer, Fox Rothschild, Pittsburgh

iPhone J.D.
New Orleans lawyer Jeff Richardson lines up to get his hands on the latest Apple products on the day they are released, shares his experiences in great detail (focusing on the lawyerly uses of these devices) and rounds up Apple coverage from all over the Web. So if you want the skinny on iOS 7, the iPhone 5S, and the recently released iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina display, this is the blog to visit.

The Legal Geeks
NEW Jessica Mederson and Josh Gilliland— lawyers and lovers of pop culture—are perhaps the nation's foremost experts on the legal issues that can be studied from John Cusack movies. Don't miss their irreverent video and audio podcasts, in which you can learn about everything from Renaissance fairs and comic-cons to torts and tortes. (You may remember Gilliland from past Blawg 100s as the author of Bow Tie Law's Blog. The bow ties still make an appearance.)

The Not-So Private Parts
HALL OF FAME With this year's revelations about NSA surveillance, Kashmir Hill's privacy blog on should find itself with even more readers. While many posts are labeled "Headline Grab" and are more akin to tweets, Hill also composes substantive posts about topics such as how long-forgotten Facebook posts might come back to haunt you and why your baby monitor's webcam should be password-protected.

Small Firm Innovation
Solos and small-firm practitioners—many of whom are established bloggers—write from personal experience at this group blog where posts are loosely centered on a monthly theme. The lawyers share specific problems they've encountered (and how they solved them) as well as pet peeves, favorite books and tech tips. Some themes from this year have delved into inspiring books, "outsourcing the small stuff" and the grating pop jargon of law practice management.

Supreme Court Haiku Reporter
What can we say that
Has not already been said?
You should read this blog.
Providing us with
SCOTUS cases in haiku
Is a true service.

HALL OF FAME Philadelphia lawyer Kelly Phillips Erb finds the tax angles of the day's major stories, sometimes consulting experts and sometimes sharing her own opinions on U.S. tax policy. Celebrities' tax woes often make appearances. This year, she also did a series of "back to school" posts that answered tax questions tied to the beginning of the academic year: Are tutoring services deductible? How do you document school-supply donations for tax purposes? Can you deduct expenses related to kids' sports?

TaxProf Blog
HALL OF FAME Paul Caron, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, covers tax reform in the news and scholarship related to U.S. tax law, and he notes celebrity tax disasters. But we like TaxProf at least as much for Caron's exhaustive coverage of news and debates covering legal education. He became the sole owner of the Law Professor Blogs Network and a makeover of that group of blogs soon followed.

Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog
El Paso, Texas, lawyer Richard Mattersdorff writes that he's learned a lot about estate planning for digital assets from law professor Gerry Beyer's blog. "Professor Beyer is also accessible," Mattersdorff writes. "Sporadically, I have emailed him, and he always answers helpfully, privately and/or in the blog itself."
Go check out the entire 100.  You will find something to follow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Resources on Digital Assets and Estate Planning


Following up on my last post, The Drum Beat of Estate Planning for Digital Assets, I am posting here some sample language and a listing of digital asset resources online and in print.

Sample Language

Here are some digital asset provisions presented in an attempt to focus our thoughts about a generic definition:

            (18)    To access, take control of, handle, conduct, continue, distribute, dispose of, or terminate digital assets and digital accounts.  The term “digital assets” means, but is not limited to, data files (including but not limited to, emails, documents, images, audio, video, and similar digital files) that currently exist or may exist as technology develops or such comparable items as technology develops, stored on digital devices (including, but not limited to, desktops, laptops, tablets, peripherals, storage devices, mobile telephones, smartphones, and any similar digital device that currently exists or may exist as technology develops or such comparable items as technology develops), regardless of the ownership or location of the physical device upon which the digital asset is stored.  The term “digital accounts” means, but is not limited to, email accounts, software licenses, social network accounts, social media accounts, file sharing accounts, financial management accounts, domain registration accounts, domain name service accounts, web hosting accounts, tax preparation service accounts, accounting service accounts, data storage or back-up accounts, online stores, affiliate programs, other online accounts that currently exist or may exist as technology develops or such comparable items as technology develops.  The powers granted herein shall include the right to possess, receive and control any password, security code or other mechanism or device or means by which access to digital assets or digital accounts is achieved.[1]

. . . . . .

Powers/Other Provision re Digital Assets
To access, take control of, conduct, continue or terminate my accounts on any website, including, but not limited, to any social networking site, photo sharing site, blogging, micro-blogging, e-mail or short message service website, financial, multimedia, personal, or other online account, or comparable items as technology develops. All such websites may release my log-on credentials, including username and password, to my [Personal Representative][Trustee], and the website shall be indemnified and held harmless by my [estate][trust] for any damages, causes of action or claims that may result from this disclosure.

[ALTERNATIVE] Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets.  The [Personal Representative][Trustee]may properly access, take control of, handle, conduct, continue, distribute, dispose of, or terminate the interests in my digital property unless such actions are contrary to the terms of this [Trust Agreement][will] or applicable law.  
My “digital property” shall include any digital asset and digital account owned by me, and shall consist of the ownership and management interests in the digital asset and account.  For purposes of this Article “digital account” means, but is not limited to, an electronic account containing a digital asset and includes any social networking site, photo sharing site, blogging, micro-blogging or short message service website, email, financial, multimedia, personal, or other online account or comparable items as technology develops.  “Digital asset” means any text, images, multimedia information, or personal property stored in a digital or analog format, whether stored on a server, computer, or other electronic device, regardless of whether it is remotely stored, which currently exists or may exist as technology develops, and regardless of the ownership of the device upon which the digital asset is stored.  Digital assets include, without limitation, any words, characters, codes or contractual rights necessary to access the digital asset, including any related intellectual property rights.  
In furtherance of the foregoing, the [Trustee][Personal Representative] is authorized to take any step necessary to terminate [or continue] any personal Web site operated by me at the time of my death.  Any website or entity controlling or sponsoring a digital asset may release my log-on credentials, including username and password, to my [Personal Representative][Trustee], and the website or entity shall be indemnified and held harmless by my [estate][trust] for any damages, causes of action or claims that may result from this disclosure.[2]
. . . . . . .
(8) “Digital asset” means information created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means on a digital device or system that delivers digital information. The term includes a contract right.[3]

. . . . . .

Digital assets are defined as electronic content and/or media and the right to use that content or media, including: email accounts, smartphones, tablets, netbooks and computers, online sales accounts, online purchasing accounts, online storage accounts, webpages, domain names, blogs, social network accounts, and intellectual property rights in such digital assets.[4]

[1]               Used with permission.
[2]               Used with permission.
[3]               National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Draft, See Section IV.L, infra.
[4]               Estate Planning and Administration with Digital Assets, Karin Praugley, Krasnow Sanders, LLP, Chicago, Illinois.  May 2013 Maryland State Bar.  Association Estate & Trust Law Section Dinner.


Here are some additional resources on digital assets and estate planning for digital assets:

Estate Planning in the Digital Age, Gerry W. Beyer, Texas Tech University School of Law, April 21, 2013

Estate Planning and Administration with Digital Assets, Karin Prangley, Krasnow Sanders, LLP, Chicago, Illinois.  May 2013 Maryland State Bar.  Association Estate & Trust Law Section Dinner.

Estate Administration in Cyberspace - Colin Korzec and Ethan A. McKittrick
Trusts & Estates, September 2011

Helping Clients Reach Their Great Digital Beyond - Evan E. Carroll, John W. Romano and Jean Gordon Carter
Trusts & Estates, September 2011

Virtual Assets - Michael walker and Vitoria Blachly
Tax Management Estates, Gifts & Trusts Journal 2011, page 253

Digital Death: Estate Planning for Passwords, Online Accounts, and Digital Property - James D. Lamm - San Francisco, CA - 2012

Digital Passing - A blog authored by James D. Lamm

Pixar for Estate Planners: Animating Your Practice Through Social Media and Forever Friending Your Clients Digital Assets - The Do’s, Don’ts and How To’s of New Communication Channels - Robert Kirkland

'Til Death Do Us Part:  A Proposal for Handling Digital Assets After Death, Chelsea Ray, Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, Winter 2013, Vol.47, No. 3., page 583 et seq.

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