Posted by Brittany Landry on December 16, 2020
Did you know that digital assets are not addressed in the typical estate plan? If overlooked, your heirs may lose access to some treasured and valuable items at your death.
At its root, digital property is anything not physically accessible - everything from pictures stored on your password protected computer to a Facebook account or even emails. The situation gets complicated quickly if your digital property involves a service provided by a company such as cloud storage (Google Drive, Box, etc.) or social media accounts. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) provides a legal framework surrounding how your heirs or fiduciaries can gain access to your digital property after you pass away. The act also provides protections for the custodians of your digital property against the claims of your heirs if you don’t properly complete the digital estate planning process.
You may have unknowingly implemented part of a digital estate plan through tools like Facebook’s “Legacy Contact” where you can designate someone to take control of your account in the event that you die. This is the first place a company will look and it will overrule any wishes specified in your will! If you don’t use the setting, or the company doesn’t provide it, they will then look to see if your will has language specifically addressing digital property. As a last resort, the company will default to their Terms of Service, which almost always deny access to anyone but the original account holder! Your digital property or account access would be forever lost.
We suggest you create or update an accurate inventory of your digital assets. Then update any online tools you’ve used so they’re consistent with your wishes. You’ll also want to contact an estate planning attorney to add the required verbiage to your will. Finally, make sure to leave specific instructions for any assets with additional complexity such as cryptocurrency held in cold storage or encrypted data.
Digital property is an increasingly important part of our lives and requires the same level of preparation as financial assets. If you need any more motivation, imagine your last Facebook or Instagram post living in perpetuity, representing the totality of you family’s digital inheritance!