If it seems like everyone you know has at least a few online accounts like Facebook, email, Instagram, and YouTube, you are not alone. Most people do have one or more online accounts, but it doesn’t always occur to people that those accounts are property – digital property that contains information about you. Since your online accounts contain a lot of personal information, it is important that they are addressed in your estate plan so that that information can be managed by and accessible to the people that you would want to access them after you pass away.
Fortunately, there is often a lot of security associated with online accounts which prevents unauthorized access to the information that is contained in those accounts. Those safeguards work well to protect your information and your privacy during your lifetime and after you pass away, but many people do want family members to be able to access their online accounts after they pass away.
Since Federal privacy laws err on the side of denying access to digital accounts to just about everyone, it is essential that you actively take steps to ensure that those whom you would like to have access to your online accounts after your death will indeed be able to do so. To facilitate this process, many states, including Kansas, have passed the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised (2015) (Revised UFADAA). The Act offers legal support to owners of online accounts in using tools provided by the companies that host the accounts, for example, Facebook and Google, in using those tools to grant access to people other than yourself in the event of your death.
Some sites where users create and maintain digital accounts may not offer options for granting account access to others, but Revised UFADAA provides a backup plan for those accounts or for situations in which the account owner chooses not to use the access granting tools that are available through the company that provides the account. According to the Act, the user may give legally enforceable directions for access to and disposition of those digital assets in a will, power of attorney, trust, or other estate planning document.
It is also possible that somebody might pass away without granting any access to or provision for the management and disposition of their online accounts and the information contained therein. If no direction is given through the account itself or in an estate plan for one or more of a deceased user’s digital accounts, the terms of service for that user’s account will be used to determine whether a fiduciary may access the user’s digital assets. If the terms of service do not address the topic of fiduciary access, the default rules of Revised UFADAA will apply.
Whether you have an estate plan already and need to add a plan for your digital assets or you have not yet started the estate planning process, you can get the estate planning help that you need from a Kansas estate planning attorney. Contact Wichita estate planning attorney J. Joseph Weber today, by calling 316-265-7802, to schedule an initial consultation. Alternatively, you can contact us through our website. We have appointments available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and occasionally in the evenings or on weekends.