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Estate planning in a
digital world

Most clients own a variety of digital assets, including photographs, documents, music, social media accounts, websites and more. When a client dies or loses their ability to manage their affairs, who will assume the legal authority to manage their digital assets?

Fiduciary law for the internet age

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADDA) provides the legal authority for a fiduciary to manage digital assets in accordance with the user’s estate plan1

Appointing a Digital Executor acts in the best interest of the clients. The Digital Executor holds the responsibility for managing their digital assets after death, including paying any outstanding debts or maintenance fees on behalf of the digital estate. Common types of fiduciaries include: 

  • Executors or administrators of deceased persons’ estates
  • Court-appointed guardians or conservators of protected persons’ estates
  • Agents appointed under powers of attorney
  • Trustees

Online personal and financial records are essential to comprehensive estate planning. Educating clients about their digital property and privacy should be the first step. Helping them to understand what constitutes a digital asset is imperative to maintaining account logins, records and passwords.

Digital Asset and Custodian Examples:
 

Digital Assets

Custodians

Hardware

Data

Online Accounts

Intellectual Property

  • Computers
  • External hard drives
  • Flash drives
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • iPods/Android music players
  • e-Readers
  • Digital cameras
  • Any information that is stored online, electronically, or cloud-based
  • Email accounts
  • Video conferencing accounts
  • Social media accounts
  • Shopping accounts
  • Photo/video streaming accounts
  • Video gaming accounts
  • Websites/blogs/domains
  • Domain names
  • Any copyrighted materials
  • Trademarks
  • HTML coding
  • Amazon
  • PayPal or Venmo
  • iTunes
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • iCloud
  • Skype
  • GoDaddy.com
  • Gmail
  • AOL Mail
 

Share this checklist (PDF) with your clients to ensure all of their assets are accounted for as they begin to plan for their estate as well as appointing a Digital Executor.

1The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws: Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised (2015)