Can I Bequeath My Digital Property?

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Your digital property requires estate planning.

We live in an increasingly digital world.

I think we would all agree with that, yes?

Smartphones are essentially mini computers with the ability to make phone calls.

Owning a business requires having a website.

Social media and apps have become interconnected with work, hobbies, and relationships.

Even banking and investing can be done online.

According to a recent Cleveland Jewish News article titled“Digital assets important part of modern estate planning,” digital property should be addressed in your estate plan.

Your digital property includes more than you might think.
Some people have more digital property than others.

Many people devise a plan for their tangible property.

They decide who receives their life insurance benefits, their home, their car, and their retirement accounts.

They even decide who will inherit their fine china (Millennials do not want it, by the way), ceramic bullfrog collection, and other items of valuable (intrinsically or emotionally) tangible personal property that are owned without ownership title or account number.

Unfortunately, many people fail to assess and address their digital property.

What is include in digital property?

Different people have different digital footprints.

For this reason, your digital property may not be the same as your neighbor, your spouse, or your grandchild.

Your digital property may include social media accounts with Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, or Instagram.

Your financial accounts, investment accounts, and bank accounts likely contain an online component.

Communications to business connections, friends, and family often involved digital property through photo sharing accounts, blogs, cloud storage, emails, and text messages.

Household or business files stored on a computer and even cryptocurrency are considered digital property.

And the beat goes on.

Ask this question.

Does the account or asset have a username or password required to access it digitally?

If yes, it falls under the general umbrella of digital property.

How do you create an estate plan for digital assets?

Kansas and Missouri, along with most states, have adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA).

This Act provides legal direction on the rights to access digital property for four different types of fiduciaries.

Who are these fiduciaries?

They include agents (under a financial power of attorney), guardians, executors, and trustees.

The law gives the “user” the right to grant access to the content of any of their digital communications and digital property to another person.

There are three tiers for the user to grant access.

First, the user may give this express permission by giving notice directly to the custodian of the digital platform.

Alternatively, if this step has not been taken, the user can grant permission in their estate plan.

Finally, the user can also forbid certain individuals from gaining access to their digital property.

Without taking these steps, the digital platform custodian retains the authority to grant or deny access to your digital assets.

Start now by creating a list of your digital assets (e.g., online with a web-based service like LastPass) and then discuss your options with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Cleveland Jewish News (Sep. 24, 2020) “Digital assets important part of modern estate planning”

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