Should I Include Digital Assets in My Estate Plan?

Many elements of your online presence – and many of the files on your computer – are digital assets that hold financial or sentimental value. If you do not include these assets in your estate plan, your loved ones may be unable to access them or have open access to assets that should remain private.

Fortunately, you can use your estate plan to appoint a trusted friend or family member to manage your online presence and take care of your files in the event of your incapacity or death. The type of action you need to take depends on the nature of your digital asset.

What Are Digital Assets?

Digital assets are the digital files and records you have stored on your phone, computer, drives, and devices, as well as everything you have stored in the cloud or distributed across the internet. In the simplest terms, digital assets include all content that is stored digitally and belongs to you.

Types of Digital Assets

Some digital assets have financial value, and others have sentimental value.

Digital assets with financial value might include:

  • cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum,
  • a Venmo or PayPal account,
  • credit card reward points,
  • frequent flyer miles,
  • profitable websites and blogs,
  • intellectual property that can be sold, and
  • photos, videos, written work, or music that generate royalties.

Your email account, social media profiles, and personal photos are all examples of digital assets with sentimental value. These assets may provide comfort to your loved ones and context for future generations, so you need to make sure your family can access them.

In many situations, sentimental digital assets are much more valuable than financial digital assets.

Take steps to secure both types of digital assets by contacting Aria Law, PLLC today.

Owning vs. Licensing Digital Assets

When you buy a physical book or album, you own it, but when you purchase an e-book or music file, you are licensing it. As a result, you may not own many of your digital assets, and your loved ones may not stand to inherit them.

While you can pass down the money in a PayPal or Venmo account via a will or trust, you cannot always transfer licensed property to your family members. The fate of your licensed assets depends on the Terms of Service Agreement (TOSA) for each asset.

Some providers allow your heirs or executors to access your licensed property, others restrict access to the person who purchased the license, and others still do not specify what happens to licensed property.

Keep in mind that if your digital assets are licensed, you may be unable to pass them down – even with a flawless estate plan. Still, leaving behind your usernames and passwords and taking advantage of digital access laws can go a long way.

Which Laws Govern Digital Assets?

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) has been active since 2015 and adopted in most states, including Texas. Previously, the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act (UFADAA) governed digital assets after incapacity or death.

Under UFADAA and RUFADAA, you can use access-authorization tools and your estate plan to allow executors and trustees to handle your digital assets. RUFADAA offers 3 tiers for prioritizing access.

First, you must use the provider’s online authorization tool. Second, you can leave instructions in your estate plan. Third, the provider’s TOSA will govern access.

Using Access-Authorization Tools

If a provider has an access-authorization tool, you should use it. Under RUFADAA, this is the most reliable way for your loved ones to access your digital assets. Facebook, for example, lets you choose someone as a “Legacy Contact” to manage your personal profile once you pass away, and Google lets you give an “inactive account manager” access to and control over your account.

Without access-authorization tools, your loved ones will need to rely on the instructions in your estate plan, which can make the process more difficult. If the instructions are inadequate or do not exist, Google or Facebook’s TOSA will apply, which could mean your Facebook profile disappears or documents on your Google Drive get deleted over time.

Leave Behind Detailed Instructions

For the best possible chance of securing your digital assets according to your wishes, you should not only use access-authorization tools whenever they are available but also leave behind your usernames, passwords, and licensing agreements.

Your loved ones will need specific instructions to log in to your phone, computer, and online accounts, and they will need to abide by all the TOSAs you signed.

Don’t let your digital assets fall through the cracks. Instead, let Aria Law, PLLC help. We serve clients like you with 24/7 availability, flat fees, payment plan options, resourcefulness, and strategic knowledge.

Securing your future in-person and online starts as soon as you call us at 210-373-1865.