Digitalization has sure made tracking and storing information more convenient, easy and safe. However, the sheer volume of digital assets that any individual owns has made tracking and managing it cumbersome not only in one’s lifetime, but also difficult to pass on to loved ones in case of death or incapacitation.
Digital assets implies an electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest. These assets are making up a significant part of a person’s estate. An average digital native owns more than 130 online accounts and several other digital assets. These include computers, smartphones, tablets, cameras, bitcoins, blogs, domain names and the business digital assets might include financial reports, passwords to patients, social media accounts and subscriptions.
The Uniform Laws Commission’s Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act 2015 (RUFADAA) provides a fiduciary, or a person appointed to manage the property of another person (common types of fiduciaries include executors of a decedent’s estate, trustees, conservators, and agents under a power of attorney). This Act extends the traditional power of a fiduciary to manage tangible property to include management of a person’s digital assets. It allows fiduciaries to manage digital property like computer files, web domains, and virtual currency, but restricts access to electronic communication such as email, text messages, and social media accounts unless the original user consented in a will, trust, power of attorney, or other record.
To guarantee that these fiduciaries get access to all digital assets one must execute a digital will. This will ensure clear instructions are passed on for them to execute.
Here’s how you can ensure that you are creating a good digital will:
Create a list of your online accounts
Make a list of all your online accounts and computing hardware (pen drives, CDs, cloud accounts, laptops, desktops etc) along with their login details in a separate document than your will; since your will becomes public after your death. Keep this list updated with your passwords, PINs, usernames and associated email addresses.
Provide clear instructions
Draft instructions on what you wish to do with each of your accounts – pass it on, delete it or duplicate it (check each company’s legacy policies). When you do this, it is easier for your executor to do what you wanted to with your digital assets.
Store your will in a secure location
Create multiple copies of your will and store them in safe locations. This could be in a locker or in an online vault. Be sure to relay this information to your executor so they know how to find it.
Add an executor
Appoint someone you trust as your ‘digital executor’ and name them in your will. Tell them how they can discover the document with information on accessing your online accounts. Once they have access to your accounts, they can skip the hassle of long court hearings to be able to execute your wishes for your online accounts.
These are simple, yet effective steps to ensure that your digital estate is passed on to your loved ones in a legally compliant manner. There may be several local laws that might apply to certain online accounts, consult a legal advisor on the best way forward.