As we head deeper into the digital age, more and more individuals are utilizing the internet not just as a hobby, but as a necessity. Online banking, maintaining a blog or webpage, shopping on Amazon, saving photographs on Facebook, uploading documents and files to the cloud; these are all tasks people perform on a daily basis. Without knowing it, many of these items have value that is often overlooked when preparing estate planning.
What will happen to all of your online accounts, cloud data and saved passwords after you die? Who has control over these digital assets? Unfortunately, the law has not kept pace with the speed of the digital age and the answers to these questions lie in a grey area. Many term of service agreements that users agree to by simply registering with a website prohibit third parties from accessing information. Also, criminal laws prohibit someone else from using your password.
So what is the family of a deceased individual to do? A bill termed the “Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” currently being proposed in Florida aims to provide authority for a Personal Representative, Trustee, Guardian, or Agent under Durable Power of Attorney to have access and authority over digital assets. The bill, if made into law, would take effect July 1, 2015.
What can you do to make navigating these digital pathways easier for your family or loved one?
- Create a Digital Asset Inventory. This list will allow your loved ones to know exactly which websites you use along with the log in information and password as well as what your wishes are in regard to each account.
- Update the Inventory. Some websites require users to change their passwords frequently. It is important to keep an up to date list as these items change.
- Grant Authority in your Estate Planning. It is important to include explicit authority in your Will, Trust and Power of Attorney, to the agent you have chosen to have access and control over these digital assets. This will especially help your agent to get through the website’s gatekeepers when no password is known.
At Wetherington Hamilton, P.A., we are now including digital asset authority in all of our Wills, Trusts and Durable Powers of Attorney as well as providing each of our clients a Digital Asset Inventory to help keep track of this vital information. If you have concerns over what will happen to your digital assets, contact us to learn more.