Digital Assets and Access to Your Digital Life
I have previously written about digital assets and what happens with those assets when a person dies. (See my Archived articles under ‘Digital Inheritance”.)
For a long time, states have sought to provide legislation concerning who might have access to a person’s digital assets (after death).
(Here…We should discriminate between digital assets (which may have value) and tweets, texts and emails to your BFFs, which may have value in your eyes, but do not have intrinsic value as an “asset”.)
According to the * Uniform Code Commission (www.uniformlaws.org) there are 17 states in 2017 that have forms of proposed legislation to address digital assets and the access to those assets.
The legislation varies widely, which indicates how complex such legislation can be. There is even some proposed legislation that has been “in the works” for over five years. Some states have adopted the recommendations of the Uniform Code Commission.
One major issue surrounding digital assets is – To what degree a fiduciary will be able to access/control/oversee/manage the digital assets of the person they represent. To begin we should clarify – What is a Fiduciary? The term includes in most cases –but not limited to – trustees, personal representatives, executors, those named as power of attorney (agents) and conservators.
In brief, a fiduciary is a person(s) appointed to manage the property of another person. Fiduciaries act under strict guidelines and their duty is to act in the other person’s best interest.
Digital assets may include things of significant value (bit coin accounts; on- line financial account; mileage award accounts; on-line investment accounts; copyrighted material including publications and music to name just a few.)
Many states have not yet instituted formal legislation about access to digital assets. Oher states are attempting to formulate legislation about the control of digital assets.
To quote the uniform laws website:
“The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (Revised UFADAA) modernizes fiduciary law for the Internet age…” and
“UFADAA provides legal authority for fiduciaries to manage digital assets in accordance with the user’s estate plan, while protecting a user’s private communications from unwarranted disclosure.”
You can read more about the UFADAA via the uniform laws website. The Act attempts to provide all states with a uniform code that provides a single legal standard of compliance.
* The ULC (Uniform Law Commission) is a nonprofit formed to create nonpartisan state legislation.
As digital information grows, the significance of digital assets and how to protect them will increase. Digital assets is quickly growing as an important facet of estate planning.
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