By Law Clerk Emily Sexton
What happens to your Facebook account after you pass away? What about the frequent flyer miles you’ve racked up? How about your PayPal balance?
Technology is rapidly evolving, and similarly, the importance of estate planning. Today, you have to consider protecting both your personal property and your digital assets.
The definition of a digital asset is continually changing as new digital formats are emerging. Digital assets include any information that is electronically stored or accessed on an electronic device (computer, smartphone, etc.).
Digital assets take many forms, including emails, music files, photos, videos, websites, social media accounts, online currency (i.e., Bitcoin), travel accounts (i.e., frequent flyer miles), and more. You likely have many digital assets worth protecting.
To best protect your digital assets, first, create a list of your digital assets and any passwords or login information necessary. Next, designate one place to keep all of the information regarding your digital assets, whether that be saved with your estate planning documents, or connected to a program like 1Password or LastPass. If your estate plan does not include a trust, your will becomes a public document through probate. For this reason, you should not list your usernames and passwords to your digital assets in your will or your trust.
Without planning for the protection of your digital assets in the future, your assets might be deleted by the company that controls them or remain untouched even after your death. Some websites, like Facebook, have a “legacy contact,” which allows you to designate someone to access your account if you pass away, but not every website has that protection yet.
In 2016, the State of Michigan passed the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FADAA). MCL 700.1001. This act, as well as acts within at least 46 other states since 2013 address access to email, social media accounts, or other electronically stored assets upon a person’s incapacity or death. Do not solely rely on the law to protect your assets. Designate how you would like your assets distributed in your will or trust.
The fiduciary or executor of your will or trust should know exactly how to access your digital assets and disburse accordingly. Our estate planning attorneys are experts in this area. We help ensure that your estate planning documents address the ability of your fiduciaries to bypass, reset, or recover your passwords. Contact Thacker Sleight for helpful guidance in updating your estate plan today.