Why are Digital Assets Important to Your Estate Planning?

Digital movies, electronic books, email accounts, social media profiles, online games, digital photos, and other assets generally improve the quality of life for most people. Have you ever wondered what these digital assets are worth and what happens to them after you pass away?

According to the anti-virus software company McAfee, users in the United States valued their digital estate at around $55,000. Some digital assets may carry sentimental value as well, which is why they must be included in your estate plan.

While our presence in the digital world has continued to evolve, the area of probate law has largely failed to keep pace. The granting of access to and division of digital assets upon the death of their owner is often a source of confusion for loved ones, tech companies, and even the courts.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) is a law that enables a person to grant access to digital assets to a designated personal representative in the event of death or incapacity.

What constitutes a digital asset?

The law defines a digital asset as an electronic record in which a user has a right or interest, including:

  • Documents stored in the cloud;
  • Contents of a hard drive;
  • Photographs uploaded to a website;
  • Text message conversations;
  • Movies, music, and ebooks;
  • Online access to any designated aspect of a person’s digital life.

What does a personal representative have to do to gain access to digital assets?

The RUFADAA establishes that personal representatives will have to present the following when attempting to secure access to digital custodians (those holding and/or managing the digital assets such as Google, Facebook, etc.)

  • A written request for the disclosure in either electronic or physical form;
  • A copy of the death certificate;
  • A certified copy of the letters of authority, such as an affidavit or court order;
  • Any other information that the digital custodian is authorized to request under the law, including account identification information and evidence otherwise linking the deceased or incapacitated person to the account.

Help is available

The estate planning attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are ready to answer your questions regarding digital asset planning. For more information, call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.

Categories: Estate Planning