• Ronald A. Flate

Don’t shut me down: Planning for digital assets

Dear Clients and Friends,

A “digital asset” is an electronic record or account in which an individual has a right or interest. In a world gone increasingly remote, managing your digital assets has become an even more important part of estate planning. From email accounts to digital photos and cloud-based storage, almost everyone owns some kind of digital asset.

Terms-of-service agreements and privacy policies govern these accounts and generally expire when you die. That means surviving family members may not be able to access your email, photos, social media accounts, etc.

However, emerging laws are providing a legal path for your executors to manage these assets. These laws also provide a framework to allow tech company “custodians” (e.g. Facebook, Google, or Apple) to safely disclose your assets without violating privacy agreements.

Most states, including California, have adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act (RUFADAA) or something similar, but legislation continues to evolve. For example, California allows a testator to prohibit certain people from accessing accounts.

Digital assets can include any part of your electronic records or accounts, including access to your financial accounts, bitcoin and cryptocurrency, music and photos, licensed domain names, seller accounts on eBay or Amazon, and information stored on your computer and other devices.

All in all, this means you need to plan for your digital assets. Do you want social media accounts deleted after you’re gone? Do you want your family to have access to your digital photos? The best way to make sure your wishes are followed is to catalog your online presence and create a legal plan for your heirs to work from.

As a former IRS attorney specially assigned to its Estate and Gift Tax division our offices continue to practice intensively in the estate planning and probate ares of law and we continue to invite inquires for free phone evaluations of your needs and wants in these areas of the law. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best, Ron

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