The majority of California residents recognize the need for some form of estate planning. For some, this involves creating a will; for others, it involves creating a trust and power of attorney to go along with the will. However, one aspect of everyday life that is generally forgotten about during the estate planning process involves digital assets. For things to run smoothly, it is vital that this aspect be accounted for in order to aid in the estate administration process.
Many individuals have a number of accounts that are strictly digital. These may include credit accounts as well as social media accounts. The state of California has recently enacted California Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. This act specifies the guidelines for accessing email and other digital data of someone who has died. While this information may be addressed in the will, the online instructions that one provides generally takes precedent.
Many individuals have numerous accounts for which there are no paper statements. Upon death, the digital fiduciary will need to have access to these accounts. For this reason, it is a good idea to identify a digital fiduciary. This should be an individual who has computer knowledge and will understand how to manage the various digital accounts maintained by an individual.
Finally, it is essential that this digital fiduciary has access to the various online accounts. This individual will need to know both where the accounts are located and the passwords to the accounts. In today’s technological environment, the average California resident will have a number of online accounts. In order to make sure that these accounts are properly handled once he or she is no longer able to manage them, it would be a good idea to establish a digital fiduciary as part of the estate administration process.
Source: kiplinger.com, “Planning Your Digital Afterlife“, Judy Gordon, Dec. 21, 2016