As our world moves further along in the Digital Age, we as a society have become increasingly dependent and intrigued with the digital world around us. As a result of this dependence we have created and accumulated vast amounts of “digital assets”. These digital assets range from and include the digital files on a computer, the photos on your phone, cryptocurrency, information stored in the cloud, social media accounts, and yes even rewards stars in the Starbucks app.
While many people think about planning for the distribution of their real and personal property, often little is thought about digital assets. But there is an importance to planning for digital assets.
Privacy and Avoiding Identity Theft:
We really are hoarders when it comes to digital assets, we have bank accounts, utilities accounts, email accounts, investment accounts, social media accounts, business-related records, online bill payment platforms, and many other forms of digital assets. All of these accounts include personal information, photos, videos, records, and sensitive information. Access to some of the information can prove beneficial in administering your estate, but even more important is limiting who has access to the information in order to protect the privacy of you, your family and your friends. It is important to provide the information to your family, as their are methods of protecting your identity, if they have access to these accounts.
Avoid Losing Memories
Many of our digital assets retain no monetary value, but prove to be invaluable to family members once we are gone. Traditionally, these memories were printed and kept in photo albums, scrapbooks, or even shoeboxes placed under one’s bed. However, this is not the case today as many videos and photos are never printed but rather stored on a hard drive on a computer, phone, or even on the internet. Without planning or alerting family of the existence of these digital assets, memories may be lost forever. Thus, it is essential to alert family members both of the existence of these digital assets and the proper way to access them.
The law surrounding digital assets, like our society is ever evolving. Currently in Oklahoma, there is a single statute that allows the executor or administrator of an estate to have the power, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any accounts of a deceased person on any social networking website, any microblogging or short message service website or any email service website. Oklahoma might soon be the 46th state to enact the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), which will provide fiduciaries the legal authority to manage digital assets and give custodians a method to disclose information to a fiduciary while protecting a user’s evidence.
While the law might be fuzzy at this time, there are easy ways to address your family’s access to digitital property and information in your estate plan.
Know What is REALLY Yours:
While you might have purchased thousands of dollars worth of e-books on your kindle or spent hundreds on your favorite songs on I-Tunes or Napster, you haven’t really bought anything, rather your are licensing the items for your personal use. Digital assets like these are usually covered by the company’s End User License Agreement. In other words, these are not personal assets which you can pass on to your heirs. The only solution at this juncture would be to leave your executor instructions on how to access these accounts and the media stored on them.
Keep a Record:
Keep a written record of your digital assets so your family, friends and loved ones can know the digital assets in your estate. This list should include all your important online accounts, digital property, and especially important password. Make sure to store the list in a secure location, like with all your other estate planning documents and ensure that your family will be able to access it.
The law surrounding digital assets is ever evolving at a rapid pace. It’s never too early to begin estate planning or too late to check in and update your estate plan to accommodate for changes in the law surrounding digital assets. No one knows what the future holds, but with a plan in place that provides for your own future needs and those of your loved ones, you can proceed with peace of mind. If you or a friend or loved one are considering estate planning for the first time, or are in need of updating an existing plan, please contact the attorney at Skillern Law Firm, PLLC by phone at 918-805-2511 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to also book an appointment with our firm using our Book an Appointment Online page!