How You Can Address Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
While it is good to know that the Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RFADAA 2015) has provisions that might allow your loved ones to access and manage your digital assets if the terms of service of the individual accounts allow it, it is critical that you understand that absent specific action on your part, that access is not guaranteed. In other words, it is up to you to ensure that your loved ones will be able to access and manage your online accounts when you pass away. You can plan for access to and disposition of your digital assets through your estate plan, with the help of your estate planning attorney.
The first step in adding your digital assets to your estate plan is making an inventory of all of your digital assets. Your inventory should include every online account that you have, like financial accounts, social media, purchasing accounts, email, or other types of accounts. Include the website, username, and password as well as a description of what kinds of information the account contains, in case the people who are managing the accounts after you pass away are not familiar with how the various types of accounts get used.
As you are creating the aforementioned inventory, think about where you plan to store it. Some good options include your estate planning attorney, your safe deposit box, or a digital fiduciary-like Secure Safe or Ever plan. If you would like to use a digital fiduciary, check with your estate planning attorney to ensure that the one that you wish to use complies with state law and also be aware that there are likely to be either one-time or recurring fees associated with your use of the digital fiduciary service.
Now that you have created and stored your inventory of digital assets, the next step is to select a “digital executor” who will access and manage all of your accounts when you pass away. Work with your estate planning attorney to add a provision appointing the digital executor in your will, if that is permitted by state law, or have your attorney help you accomplish that goal in a different manner if necessary. When you are thinking about who you would like to ask to be your digital executor, think about people that you trust who are technically savvy. Before you appoint them, ask them whether they are willing to serve in the role of managing and disposing of your digital assets according to the instructions that you will leave for them.
The fourth and final step of ensuring that your digital assets will be attended to after you pass away is to make sure you grant your digital executor access to each of your accounts using either the tools provided by the company that provides each account or in a separate document in your estate plan. Also, write out a list of instructions for what you want to happen to each account, including whether you want it closed or kept open, photos downloaded, account owner changed to a beneficiary, or whatever you deem appropriate for each account as long as it falls within acceptable conduct under the account’s terms of service agreement.
If you have questions about estate planning in Kansas, schedule an initial consultation with Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber by calling our office. You can also contact us through our website. We offer appointments Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we occasionally offer evening or weekend appointments.