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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Don’t Make it Harder on Your Family: Plan for Your Digital Assets

One of the very best things that you can do for your family when it comes to planning ahead, is executing a comprehensive estate plan for when you become incapacitated or pass away. This ensures that your family need not stress about decisions regarding your assets, as you have already made such decisions for them.

While most of us know that we include several physical assets in our estate plan, such as our car, our house, and our bank account, your plan should include more than just these items. As more of our lives become digitized, more of our assets are becoming digital. That’s why it is so important to incorporate our digital assets into our plans as well; otherwise, we are missing quite large portions of our property.

What Are Digital Assets?

If you use an online service or account that you log into by a password or other secure method, this is considered a digital asset. Therefore, everything from your online financial accounts to your cloud and smartphone apps, to your Facebook account are digital assets.

How Do I Determine My Digital Assets?

1. List your inventory.

The very first thing that you should do is sit down and think about all of the different things that you do online. Consider the different categories of things, as described above, and be sure to include any hybrid digital assets that you may have, such as digital liabilities like automatic payments, or your IRA.

2. Document your access.

Once you have created a list of your digital inventory, it is important that you establish how you are able to access each asset. This may be anything from full names and account numbers associated with an account to usernames, passwords, and secondary authentication. If you have established a security question that must be answered, include this as well. This way you can ensure that your executor can access these accounts.

3. Choose your recipients.

Lastly, once you have made a list of your digital assets and have included how to access each one, it is important to determine whom you want to receive access to each asset and what you would like each recipient to do with said access.

How Difficult is it to Obtain Access?

Due to a federal law, which makes it a crime to access an account that is not yours, it has proven very difficult for executors of estates to obtain access to a decedent’s digital assets.

Luckily though, as of 2017, the state of California – like many others – has implemented a new law called The Revised Access to Digital Assets Act, which enables executors to access an individual’s digital assets when the original owner has passed away under certain conditions.

So long as they are able to prove one of the following things, California executors and trustees may now have the right to receive disclosure of the decedent’s digital assets.

  1. The decedent previously provided consent (e.g. Facebook’s Legacy Manager); or
  2. The decedent gave permission in writing (e.g. in a will or trust – or even an email); or
  3. The Terms of Service that the user signed with the specific service provider allows for such disclosure (this is usually not the case).

Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning, Inc. Helps Those in California Who Need Help with Their Estate Plan

The aftermath of losing a loved one often leaves us with difficulty accomplishing even simple tasks. Concentration can prove very challenging when you are grieving, but when you add the additional stressors (time and money) associated with unresolved digital assets, it can feel downright impossible.

At Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning, Inc., we understand the importance of a comprehensive estate plan for you and your family. That’s why we help you to create an estate plan that meets your specific needs. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!


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