Part 1 and Part 2 of this series have explored digital assets and gave some practical tips on how to safeguard access to those assets for fiduciaries and family. In this final entry, we will discuss how estate planning plays into the digital assets conversation.
Developing Your Estate Plan
You should consult an attorney when you set out to develop an estate plan. Before your first consultation, you should list any significant digital assets or accounts along with your other assets (do not list passwords). Online storage accounts and digital purchases should be at the top of your list, as well as the accounts associated with devices you own.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney grants your chosen agent the power to act in your place when it comes to property and financial matters (among other things). You should be sure to ask your lawyer whether your power of attorney contains language that permits your agent to access your accounts and receive your data and communications. The Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act provides that your power of attorney controls in cases where the provider has not made an online tool available (see Part 2 for more on online tools). In either case, language allowing (or denying) access by your fiduciary is a smart, practical addition to a modern power of attorney.
Your Last Will and Testament should specify what you want to happen to any digital assets and electronic communications owned by you at your death. Many digital purchases are technically leases, so they cannot be passed to a beneficiary through a will (though there is a movement to allow this—see Part 1 for more information). It is a good idea to direct your personal representative to gather your data from various providers so your personal representative can pass it on to whoever you wish. You might also direct them to cancel or transfer your digital subscriptions (if the provider permits) and close other accounts. If you sell products on Amazon, eBay, or other marketplaces, you might also direct your personal representative to finalize those transactions and close the accounts.
Agents and personal representatives are not the only fiduciaries that may need access to your digital assets and accounts. Consult your attorney on ensuring access by guardians and other fiduciaries.
Digital assets are a large part of our lives that will only continue to grow. As such, they deserve great consideration in the estate planning process. Everyone with a digital footprint—no matter the size—should take steps to protect access to critical accounts and assets. If you have an estate plan, you should contact your attorney to ensure that digital assets are covered in your documents. If you have not completed your estate plan, consider which digital assets are important and worth protecting and be sure to let your attorney know that you would like to see access to those access secured.
Interested in protecting your digital assets? Schedule a meeting with us to discuss your estate plan.
category: Estate Planning