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Digital Estate Planning

With the computer age and the internet there is class of assets that may or not be owned in the traditional sense but need to be included in any estate plan.  

Some examples of these digital assets are Social Media Files, e-mails, gaming, bitcoin, or other virtual currency  that are held in virtual or digital accounts.  These type of accounts include e-mail, software, social media, file sharing.
The estate planning problem is how to get access to these accounts and  to exercise control over them to either transfer title to them or get the data out of the account to transfer to a health care provider or to the decedent’s heirs.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (California Probate Code Section 870) establishes a procedure where a Fiduciary meaning a personal representative appointed by a will or a court, or a trustee may get access to these assets.

This has to be done under the terms of service agreement of the custodian of the digital asset. These terms usually are included in the terms which persons assents to before they open an application.

Most of us do not read these provisions but just click the box and open the digital file or application.  To comply with these provisions can be very onerous.  Also the fiduciary may not know where all the digital accounts are located.
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to have “Digital Estate Plan” listing the following:
  1. Type of Digital Asset
  2. Physical Location of Said Asset
  3. Username of Account
  4. Password and Security Code(s)
  5. Beneficiaries of the Accounts
This Digital Estate Plan should be updated regularly and kept with  the original estate planning documents in your computer and in the Estate Planning Portfolio which should hold hard copies of your estate planning documents.

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