Do You Have a Plan for Your Digital Assets?

Long gone are the days that estate planners need only make a plan for their physical assets like their car, house, boat, bank accounts, and other property. Two decades into the 21st century, every estate planner needs to do something about his or her digital assets. This blog will provide you with general best practices for taking care of these important assets. 

What is a Digital Asset?

In 2016, the state of Illinois passed its version of the “Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.” This is a model law created by the Uniform Law Commission to give states blueprints to statutorily give citizens a way to protect digital assets and pass them on to the next generation. This law defines a digital asset as “an electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest.” Some examples of digital assets include:

  • Social media accounts
  • Funds held in Paypal, Venmo, or other online payment service
  • Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin is the most notable example)
  • Online email accounts
  • Online picture sharing companies (like Shutterfly, Imgur, and others)
  • Frequent flyer miles
What Does Illinois Law Say About Digital Assets?

State laws have somewhat of a tightrope act to perform: they must simultaneously empower personal representatives and fiduciaries to be able to handle digital assets of decedents while preserving the privacy of the decedents. As a result, the state of Illinois granted some power to custodians (Facebook, Google, and other online companies) and other leverage to fiduciaries. 

Estate planners are permitted to grant fiduciaries access to online accounts through a Last Will and Testament, trust, power of attorney form, guardianship, or other estate planning document. However, custodians have the right to prohibit access to these online accounts without a court order. Additionally, custodians have no obligation to provide fiduciaries with deleted information. 

Many online companies have built-in features that allow users to grant access to fiduciaries access upon their death. It is universally encouraged for estate planners to take advantage of these online tools so the process is more efficient. Furthermore, users’ preferences through these online tools supersede contradicting requests in estate planning documents. 

In addition to using online tools to pass along you digital assets, you should also, prior to your death:

  • Take an inventory of every digital asset you own. 
  • Identity who you want to handle your digital assets. This can be the same as the executor of your Will or a different person. 
  • If needed, document your usernames and passwords and store them in a safe place. 
  • Make clear your wishes for each digital asset (delete, maintain, or transfer them, for example). 

The average person’s email address is associated with more than 130 online accounts. Taking an inventory of a decedent’s online accounts can, therefore, be overwhelming for fiduciaries if they attempt to do so in a piecemeal fashion. To avoid this, you should consider how you want your digital assets handled after you pass away. 

After all, it’s not just about bequeathing your money in your estate plan; it’s also about making sure your children and grandchildren don’t lose that awesome picture you took during the last big family trip to the beach two summers ago. For help with this or any other estate planning needs, get in touch with Velazquez Consumer Law, LLC at 630-576-9030 to discuss your options over a free consultation.

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Velazquez Consumer Law

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