As most of us know, an estate plan is essential to ensuring that your wishes are carried out when you are incapacitated or upon your death. Much of this determination is related to your physical assets. However, as technology continues to become more ingrained in our lives, it is now more important than ever to take your digital life into account when planning. Your estate plan should include what is to happen to your accounts, files, transactions and other digital assets after you pass.
What Is Considered a Digital Asset?
To make it simple, a digital asset is any online service or account that is protected by some type of a security log-in. Digital assets may include things such as web domains that you own, social media accounts, cloud accounts, online financial accounts, and smartphone apps. As more records continue to become digitized – and are password-protected but accessible online – they too are becoming a part of your digital life.
Determining Assets of Your Digital Life
There are a few different steps you should take when attempting to determine all of your digital assets. They are as follows.
1. Establish your inventory
Your inventory includes any of the assets that we mentioned above. This also includes recollection of any digital liabilities that you may have, such as automatic payments, as well as a list of any hybrid digital assets, such as your IRA.
2. Determine Your Access to Each Asset
List the name and web address for each asset, including any account numbers and full names on the account. Additionally, ensure that your heirs will have access to these accounts by including login information (e.g. usernames and passwords). Also establish whether there is a secondary authentication required, such as plugging in a code sent to a specific cell phone associated with the account. If any of your accounts require answers to security questions it is also imperative that you include them on your list.
3. Determine to Whom You Wish to Grant Access
Finally, once you have established your inventory and a complete list of how to access each asset, it is important to determine to whom you wish to give access and what you would like to be done with each after you have passed away. These wishes can also be included in your will and living trust.
Barriers to Succession
Although it once proved difficult for executors or heirs to gain access to another’s account, this is no longer the case. For years people were prevented access to accounts and passwords due to a federal law making it a crime for someone to access an online account that isn’t actually theirs.
For a long time, it was very difficult for the heirs of an estate to gain access to the decedent’s account since there is a federal law that makes it criminal for someone to access an online account that isn’t theirs. However, most states, including Florida, have adopted a version of the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which allows for estate executors to manage digital financial assets of the decedent without express permission…unless otherwise stated in the will or living trust.
Helping to make the issues surrounding digital assets easier, providers have begun to implement their own digital asset policies. For example, Google and Facebook now allow you to designate who should be granted access to your account after you pass away.
The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. Help Those in Florida with Estate Planning Needs
After years of working hard to obtain everything that you have, you understandably desire to protect your assets. At the Law Office of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A., we understand the importance of protecting what is yours. We can help with your estate planning needs. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!