Digital Assets and Death - What should you do?

What happens to your electronic accounts and digital assets when you die? Or, if you suddenly become incapacitated, who could take care of your online accounts?

Most people have, at the very least, one or more email accounts. Many people, however, have a significant online presence with numerous financial and social media accounts, while others run businesses through sites such as Ebay and Etsy. Many of your online accounts have financial value as well as personal value.

The law is struggling to keep up with the constantly expanding digital world which includes email accounts; social and professional networking accounts; personal and professional blogs; music and e-books sites; sites for photos and videos; cloud-based storage; internet domain names; and virtual currencies such as bitcoin.

New Minnesota Law

In 2016 the Minnesota Legislature adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which lets you authorize a fiduciary to access your digital assets after your death, through your Will or Trust, or during your lifetime, through a Power of Attorney.

However, even if your estate planning documents authorize your executor or power of attorney to access your electronic accounts and assets, the "terms of service" of a particular website or online custodian may create barriers to access after your death. A few sites, such as Facebook, have developed procedures for when a user dies.

Best Advice

The best advice is this: (1) include language addressing electronic/digital assets and accounts in your estate planning documents, (2) read the "terms of service" for a site you utilize to see if there is a process for designating other persons who may access your account, and (3) maintain a current inventory of your electronic/digital accounts, user names and passwords. The job of your executor or power of attorney will be easier if you have an updated list. And once you have made that list, keep it secure but accessible.

Contact the estate planning attorneys (Jill Adkins; Jill Presseller; Heidi Van De Berg, and Greg Van Heest) at Gries Lenhardt Allen, P.L.L.P., to discuss how you can better protect your assets, including your online accounts, in the event of your death or incapacity.

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