When people are asked about estate planning, they often mention wills, health care directives and powers of attorney. Most people describe what they’d like to happen with their tangible assets such as a car, house or family heirloom if they were to pass in their will. Few detail what they’d like to happen with their digital ones like email accounts or online photo albums in it. It’s something that should be included there, though.
In an era of paperless offices, social media, email and smartphones, it seems that many people’s personal and professional lives are all tied into technology.
A business succession plan can spell out who a company owner wishes to take over the reins of it if something were to happen to them. It generally doesn’t give those successors explicit rights to access the company’s computer system, a former owner’s email or online banking records, though. Their rights to access those needs to be detailed in your will.
The same logic applies to personal digital assets. These include email accounts, cloud-based photo albums or social media accounts. It may illegal for you to access those without having been designated as beneficiary of it in your loved one’s will.
Some jurisdictions have recently adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) to address how digital accounts should be handled after an individual’s death. It allows testators, or will writers, to appoint someone that they trust, a fiduciary, to go in and access their online accounts after they’re gone. Testators can use a power of attorney, trust or will to appoint someone to this role.
Many online subscription services, banks and email providers now also provide an option for account holders to appoint authorized users to access their accounts. This allows them to lawfully manage any accounts that you may have.
You should take steps to protect both your tangible and intangible assets here in Bridgewater and elsewhere in New Jersey and around the country.
While you may feel that you have a solid grasp on what to do with more traditional ones like houses and cars, you may want to check with an estate planning attorney to make sure that you do. You should consult one if you have digital assets. By doing so, they can provide you with effective estate planning advice for the future.