The following is a multi-part blog series providing helpful information to protect and pass on your digital assets.
Guidance for your digital estate plan
The law referenced in last week’s blog adopts a three-part approach to determine how heirs and or executors can access online accounts after one’s death. The good news is those three sections of the law offer guidance for people trying to deal with digital assets in their estate plan — whether you live in a state that has adopted this law or not.
The law’s first section says that if a service provider offers an online mechanism for the user to dictate his or her post-death wishes — one example is Google’s “inactive account manager” — then the account owner’s use of that tool determines what happens to his account.
The online tools should be respected by everybody. It is very important for a provider to have an online tool and the users use that online tool. Hopefully more and more providers will be giving their users the option where they have an online tool that dictates what happens upon their death.
The second section says if the service provider doesn’t offer any kind of online tool that dictates what happens to digital assets after the account owner’s death, or if the account owner doesn’t use the tool, then the account owner’s directions in a will or other legal document prevails.
It is very helpful to put direction in the will, in trust agreements, and in powers of attorney. Upon one’s demise it will be the focus of the decedent’s intent. It very helpful to have this intent documented.
The third section dictates when the absence of the first two sections have been ignored. Then the heirs and or executor are left with the terms of the service agreement of the provider. You know, the one you click on (and never read) when you open your account.
This agreement determines how your digital asset(s) are dealt with after you die. For starters, those agreements will curtail access to anyone who is not an account owner.
As long as you use the online tool offered by your service provider, if one is offered, and if you detail your wishes in your will, your digital assets should be accessible as per your wishes.
It is good the Act provides a mechanism for people to have their wishes respected after death.
On June 1, 2017, Governor Abbott signed into law the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.
Please stay tuned for next week with more ideas for how to prepare now for the dissemination of your digital assets after death.