Digital assets and estate planning

One of the legal solutions available to California residents who want to ensure that their digital assets are managed according to their wishes after death is the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. It permits individuals to give a designated fiduciary the legal authority to access and manage their digital assets if they unexpectedly become incapacitated or if they die. This type of authority can be granted using a power of attorney, trust or will.

There are also some digital providers who have begun to provide ways for individuals to specify authorized users. One provider offers a tool that can individuals can use to authorize someone to have access to their account information if they become unable to do so themselves or if they die. Another provider offers a similar tool that give users the ability to choose someone to be their "legacy contact," a person to assume control of the account after the user dies.

Individuals can be proactive on their own when developing their digital estate plan. They should begin by inventorying all digital assets, regardless of how elementary or complex they may be. It is also important to maintain all of their passwords and usernames in a secure area; some people may find it beneficial to use a password management tool. They should also be sure to designate someone they trust to access their login information after death.

Wills, trusts and powers of attorney should be updated to indicate who should serve as fiduciaries. The legal documents should also specify which person should have access to which assets.

An estate planning attorney may evaluate estate plans to ensure that they address how all of a client's assets are to be managed after death. The attorney may assist with amending plans to include the treatment of digital assets.

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