Managing Your Digital Assets
Have you ever wondered what will happen to your digital assets when you pass away? When I refer to digital assets, I mean absolutely any electronic record in which you have some right or interest. Obviously, based on that definition, digital assets comprise a very broad and diverse group. Some digital assets, such as your Facebook profile or your old tweets, may not seem that significant of a concern after you have passed away. However other digital assets, such as an online collection of books, music, or even digital currency, possess an inherent value. Still other digital assets, such as logs of your old emails or transactions on online accounts, may not be valuable in themselves but could contain critical information regarding other assets that do have value.
The various custodians of your digital assets (such as Facebook, Apple, or Google) have contingencies built into their terms of service that decide what happens to the digital assets contained with a user’s account upon death. In the past, these custodians would routinely deny any third party requests for access into another user’s account information (even court-appointed executors or fiduciaries). However, as a large proportion of our collective information has shifted towards electronic storage, it has become increasingly clear that fiduciaries need access to their principal’s digital assets just as much as any of their tangible assets.
The Uniform Law Commission has put forth legislation intended to address the issue of third party management of digital assets upon death or incapacity. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) allows owners of digital assets to appoint someone they trust (normally in a will or power of attorney document) who will have authority over those assets. In this appointment document, the owner of the digital assets can provide express instructions for how those assets should be managed upon their death or incapacity. For example, you can choose to memorialize your Facebook Account, delete your Gmail, and transfer ownership of your Amazon Prime account to a family member. These instructions will take precedence over the custodian’s typical terms of service. As RUFADAA has been enacted by more and more states across the country, many custodians of digital assets have begun altering their terms of service to acknowledge the powers of a fiduciary appointed under RUFADAA. RUFADAA has been introduced in the Georgia General Assembly (SB301) and, hopefully, will be considered in the next legislative session.
Our office is on the forefront of managing our client’s digital assets. We incorporate RUFADAA appointment language into planning documents in anticipation of the legislation being adopted in Georgia. For a small fee, we also offer all estate planning clients access to a groundbreaking service. Directive Communication Systems (DCS) is the first service of its kind devoted to the management of digital assets. DCS allows you to gather all of your instructions about your various digital assets into one portal(all without saving any information about your logins or passwords). When the time becomes necessary, DCS will transfer your instructions to all of the digital asset custodians so that they can carry out your wishes. The seamless service offered by DCS ensures that more information about your digital assets can be captured documented before you become incapacitated or pass away. The service also saves fiduciaries and executors a tremendous of time and effort in having to communicate your directives to the digital asset custodians when it becomes necessary.
Disclaimer: All materials have been prepared for general information purposes so that can learn more about our firm and services. The information presented above is not legal advice and is not to be acted on as such. While we strive to present accurate information at the time of writing, it may not be current and is subject to change without notice.