Before recently, the terms used by each individual website influence who has ownership and access to digital assets following a loved one’s death. These regulations greatly increased the number of regulations that loved ones must follow after your death. In many cases, these complex laws ended up having the result of beneficiaries losing digital assets that belong to the deceased family member.
Passed in 2015, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADA) governed a person’s access to online accounts when the account owner passes away or loses the ability to manage their digital accounts.
New York’s statute, EPTL 13-A constituted the state’s passage of this act. Many other states also passed similar regulations. Given the prevalence of these new regulations, many states are gaining an increased understanding of how to understand how digital assets are handled after someone’s death.
This regulation allows individuals to name a person in their will to handle digital assets. This designated individual can gain access to these assets. If this designated individual’s wishes for these assets conflict the terms of individual sites, the individual has control over how matters are handled. In addition to making sure to appoint an individual to handle digital assets, there are also some other helpful strategies that you can follow.
# 1 – Make an Inventory of All Your Digital Assets
It is a good idea to classify your digital assets into different categories. For example, while email correspondence and passwords might fall into one category, your Amazon shopping history would go into another group. You should also make sure to fully list all of your assets in each of these categories. This provides your loved ones with a detailed and organized list of your various digital assets.
# 2 – Be Sure to Name a Fiduciary
The terms of these new regulations can only be fully realized if you name a fiduciary. As a result, you should make sure to name one when you engage in estate planning. You should make sure to appoint a secondary fiduciary in case something happens to the first person that you appoint.
# 3 – Express Wishes for Each Asset
In either your will or in a separate estate planning document, you should make sure to list the wishes that you have for each asset. Some of the details that you should make sure to address include who will be tasked with shutting down or memorializing a social media account, who will receive points from an account, who will be able to access your email correspondence, and what will happen to your pictures.
# 4 – Consider Using a Password Storage Program
Programs like LastPass allow individuals to store passwords and user names for each digital account. This can be an invaluable alternative to writing down passwords on a piece of paper or relying on a word document on your computer to hold this information. These programs also allow a person to avoid placing passwords in estate planning documents, which can turn out to be a bad idea if a person updates their passwords but does not update their account.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer
Properly planning for digital assets is just one of the many challenges with which people who perform in estate planning today must contend. If you have questions or concerns about the estate planning process, do not hesitate to contact Ettinger Estate Planning.