This blog has touched on digital property in the past. Indeed, in a recent post, we looked at how a power of attorney is affected by digital assets. In this post though, we will look at digital assets more broadly.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets are, essentially, one’s online life. This includes social media profiles, digital music services, email accounts, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, etc. Anything that has a login is a digital asset. Of course, we know that brokerage accounts and bank accounts have value, but so to do these other digital assets. Indeed, as of late cryptocurrencies and NFTs have exploded in value recently, but on a personal level, our other digital assets have value too, and we need to acknowledge them in our estate plans.
Our non-monetary digital assets disappear after we die, right?
No. After one dies, all of our digital assets live on, especially if those service providers do not know that we have passed. Once they are informed, what happens to our digital afterlife will depend on the state we live in, the country the website is based and the online account’s terms of service. One’s executor does not automatically get access, unless one’s state or the website’s home state has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (luckily, most states have). Though, one will still need to activate that setting and specifically allow the executor access. This is why it is so important to plan for digital assets now.
But, it is enough to just leave a list of usernames and passwords, right?
Of course, anyone with a username and password can access one’s digital assets, but if one is not the owner, accessing another’s account, even if they are the named executor may be a violation of the terms of service for the website. And, depending on the state or country, this could also be illegal.
Okay, so how do we fix this?
As we said in our prior post, include authorizing access to one’s digital assets in the financial power of attorney. And, be specific about that digital access. Include specific authorization to all of the websites and online wallets, and make sure the website has the setting enabled that allows this access as well. This is all true, even if one wants their digital afterlife erased. The key here is that San Jose, California, residents plan to make sure their digital life does not turn into a zombie after they pass.