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Incorporating Digital Assets into your Estate Plan

Ohio recently adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (the “Act”) to address a type of asset owned by almost everyone in this day of modern technology, “Digital Assets”. “Digital Assets” include a wide variety of electronically stored data, whether these assets are stored online, on a device, or on a computer. Common examples of Digital Assets include the following: online bank accounts, email accounts, social media accounts, digital photos, music, or data remotely stored in the cloud.

Whether these assets have significant financial value or just sentimental value, delegating who has the ability to access and manage your Digital Assets if you become incapacitated or pass away is crucial for any comprehensive estate plan in this day and age.  For instance, a majority of people now have large collections of photographs stored electronically (all thanks to cell phones) that your loved ones may want to keep as mementos.  Additionally, your email account might contain important financial information including electronic statements for bank accounts, investment accounts or tax records.  Ensuring that the proper people have knowledge of and access to such assets is vital to avoid these assets being lost or unclaimed.

Under the Act, you may now appoint a specific person (called a “Fiduciary”) to have the authority to access and use your Digital Assets upon your death or incapacitation.  While your Fiduciary has the authority to act on your behalf, this power is not very useful unless he/she knows where to find your Digital Assets.  Therefore, it is vitally important to create a list of your Digital Assets for your Fiduciary to use.  In reviewing your Digital Assets, you will discover that some providers permit you to pick who will manage and/or delete your account upon your death i.e. Facebook and Google.  It is important to review each provider’s terms of service agreement for the ability to make such a designation and to make any such nomination to allow your Fiduciary access to these accounts.

No matter how technologically savvy (or un-savvy) you are, it is more than likely that you own some form of Digital Assets.  In the absence of advance planning, your family may not be able to access your digital records or assets, and may be forced to obtain a court order to gain access to a specific Digital Asset.  In order to ensure that your estate plan addresses all of the issues regarding these Digital Assets, please contact us to discuss what steps you should take to update your estate.

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