Do You Own Digital Assets?
Growing numbers of people now own digital assets, and some of those assets are quite valuable. In Tennessee, if you own important digital assets, discuss your options for managing those assets – and for transferring them after your death – with a er.
If your cryptocurrency and your other digital assets are not a part of your estate plan, those assets may not be protected after you pass away. A Tennessee estate planning lawyer can help you determine what steps you should take to manage and protect your digital assets effectively.
What assets are considered digital assets, and what measures can you take now, with help from a , to manage and protect those assets successfully?
What Are Digital Assets?
Anything of value that you have online may be considered a digital asset. Your online accounts and platforms are considered digital assets, but any funds that you may have in those accounts and platforms are not. Your digital assets may include but are not necessarily limited to:
- social media and email accounts
- online credit card, banking, and utility accounts
- contact lists
- video and photo storage and sharing accounts
- smartphone, computer, tablet, or cloud data
- blogs or websites you maintain
- cryptocurrency keys
- domain names
- graphic, text, and audio files (and other intellectual properties)
Will Your Beneficiaries Have Access to Your Digital Accounts?
Most online accounts require private passwords that may prevent your loved ones or other beneficiaries from gaining access to those accounts. Your online accounts may also be protected by state and federal laws that address data privacy and unauthorized access to computer systems.
The terms-of-service agreements required by digital service providers can add additional restrictions. You must leave specific, detailed instructions regarding who may access your digital assets (and when and how), or your loved ones may never be able to recover those assets.
What is the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act?
A fiduciary is the individual who has been legally designated to manage someone else’s property and assets. Fiduciaries include but are not limited to conservators, trustees, an agent acting under a power of attorney, and the executor of a decedent’s estate.
Tennessee enacted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) in July 2016. RUFADAA gives a fiduciary the legal ability to access online accounts when the owner of the accounts dies or no longer has the capacity to manage his or her online accounts.
The Act extends a fiduciary’s duties and powers to include the management of digital properties such as web domains, computer files, and virtual currency, but it limits a fiduciary’s access to texts, emails, and social media accounts unless the owner consents in writing to fiduciary access.
What Else Does RUFADAA Provide?
Companies that create, store, or offer digital assets (like Facebook and Google) are called “custodians” under RUFADAA. Custodians may request court orders before allowing access to accounts, and they may provide only the material “reasonably necessary” to settle an estate.
RUFADAA also specifies how digital accounts may be legally accessed. If a digital service lets you leave instructions for what will happen to the assets after your death, those instructions will determine what happens to the account.
For example, you could use Google’s “inactive account manager” to designate a loved one as the beneficiary of your Google assets. If a digital service offers no way to leave your instructions, the instructions in your will (or another legal document) determine how the assets are handled.
If you do not leave any instructions, or if you do not designate a fiduciary or beneficiary for a digital account, the digital service’s terms-of-service agreement determines how the account and the assets will be handled.
How Can You Best Protect Your Digital Assets?
To protect your digital assets effectively, the first step is making a list of those assets with usernames, passwords, and any other information that may be necessary to access your online accounts. Make sure that your fiduciary or beneficiary has that list or will be able to find it.
However, you should not have this information included in your will, because upon your death, your will becomes part of the public record. The next step is determining what should happen to your digital assets if you pass away or if you become incapacitated.
For example, should your Twitter or Facebook account be deleted? Do you want the photographs in your cloud storage to be shared with your loved ones? If you own cryptocurrency, what will happen to it?
When Should You Consult an Estate Planning Lawyer?
Your list of usernames and passwords, along with your instructions for what should eventually happen to your digital assets and accounts, must be stored securely while remaining available to your fiduciary or beneficiary. The usual options for storing this information include:
- in a safe deposit box or in a locked safe
- with a relative or a trusted friend
- with an online storage service
- with your estate planning lawyer
However, until your instructions for your digital assets have been included in your estate planning documents, those instructions will not be legally binding. If you have not established a will or a trust, now is the time. No one knows what tomorrow may bring.
If you already have estate planning documents prepared and in place, take the steps listed above and contact a Kingston estate planning attorney as quickly as possible about revising your estate plan to include your digital assets.
Let Davis Law Firm Guide You Through the Estate Planning Process
Whether you need to prepare a will, establish an estate plan, or include your digital assets in your current estate plan, you’ll need to contact a Kingston estate planning lawyer at Davis Law Firm. That lawyer can address any concerns and answer all of your estate planning questions.
Davis Law Firm provides reliable estate planning services to families, business owners, and others in and near Kingston and Crossville and across Tennessee. Attorney Tyler Davis is an award-winning estate planning lawyer who is familiar with all of your estate planning options.
Learn more about protecting your digital assets or preparing an estate plan – or begin the process now – by promptly contacting the Kingston or Crossville offices of Davis Legal Team. Call 865-830-6286 today to schedule a free, no-obligation evaluation of your estate planning needs.