Understanding Digital Assets & Appointing a Digital Executor

What is a Digital Asset?

A digital asset encompasses a broad range of electronic files and records stored online, on mobile devices, or personal computers. These assets include:

  • Social Media Accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and more
  • Online Communications: Email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc
  • Digital Media: Photos and videos stored on platforms like iCloud, Flickr, etc
  • Loyalty Points: Airline or other rewards programs such as AA, Southwest, etc
  • Digital Music and Artwork: Collections of music or digital art

However, it's important to note that digital assets do not include:

  • Underlying Financial Assets: While electronic statements may be digital assets, the actual funds in the bank account are not.
  • Cryptocurrency Ownership: Access to cryptocurrency exchange accounts (such as Coinbase) may be considered a digital asset, but the cryptocurrencies themselves (e.g., Bitcoin, Ethereum) are treated as part of the estate.

Learn more in our Learn Center: How to Create Your Own Digital Estate Plan

Accessing Your Digital Assets

Digital assets are typically accessed through 'Custodians', which include email providers and social media platforms. A designated Digital Executor in your Estate Plan can request access to these assets. This role enables the Digital Executor to manage, distribute, or terminate digital assets per your Estate Plan's terms.

Adding a Digital Executor to Your Estate Plan

You have the option to designate a Digital Executor, a person entrusted with the task of managing your digital legacy. This role can be assigned to:

  • Your Primary Executor: The individual already designated to oversee the distribution of your physical and financial assets can also be appointed to manage your digital assets.
  • A Different Individual: Alternatively, you may choose someone other than your Primary Executor to handle your digital assets. This might be advisable if you believe someone else has the specific knowledge or skills better suited to manage your digital presence.

The Digital Executor will have the responsibility to access, manage, distribute, or delete digital assets according to the wishes outlined in your Estate Plan. This role is crucial in the digital age, ensuring your online accounts, digital collections, and other electronic records are handled appropriately after your passing.

Variations in Law by State

Laws regarding Digital Executors and the management of digital assets are relatively new and can vary significantly by state. Most states have legislation that recognizes the authority of Digital Executors, granting them the power to access and manage digital assets. This may include:

  • Executor or Trustee Powers: In some states, the executor of a Will or the trustee of a Trust is authorized to manage digital assets.
  • Custodian Online Tools: Certain states allow the use of online tools provided by Custodians for disclosing digital assets to specified individuals.

Given the evolving nature of digital asset laws, it's crucial to understand how your state's regulations impact your Estate Plan and the management of your digital legacy. Ensuring your Estate Plan includes provisions for your digital assets is an essential step in comprehensive estate planning, safeguarding your digital footprint and ensuring your wishes are honored.

 

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