In the realm of estate planning in California, a new type of asset has appeared. Along with such assets as real estate, financial accounts, personal property and intellectual property, a person must now consider digital property assets as an item to account for in his or her estate plan.
Digital property assets can include social media accounts, passwords, email addresses, website names and online accounts such as Paypal. If a person is an eBay seller or other form of online merchant, declaring these accounts is a must. A recent article addresses some of the issues involved.
A person should consider providing access to their accounts in the event of death or disability. Due to the frequency in which the issue comes up, California has enacted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA). The act provides an estate administrator, executor or executrix with the same access and management powers as they would with tangible estate assets. However, the named estate representative may not have the technical savvy to handle a person’s digital property assets, or they may not be the person the decedent desires to manage such accounts such as social media. In these cases, the estate plan should provide an alternative individual for this purpose.
Digital property asset management should be discussed with an estate planning attorney as other assets are discussed. The attorney should be notified if a person other than the estate fiduciary is desired to take control of the accounts in the event of death or disability since other documents may be necessary. Finally, specific instructions as to how these assets are to be managed should be addressed with the attorney.