When someone hears the term “estate planning” they generally think about planning for the distribution of real estate, bank accounts, IRAs, life insurance or other assets after their death. However, with the explosion of the internet, no longer can you overlook your digital assets in planning your estate.
It is common, for example, for seniors to have a Facebook account – approximately 56% of internet users age 65 or older use Facebook. Also, many people have accounts with LinkedIn, twitter, I-tunes, etc., or do much of their banking on-line and only receive account statements on-line. With so much digital information, gone are the days of simply telling someone where you keep your important papers.
Unfortunately, the law has not yet adequately addressed how to deal with these digital assets when someone dies. Currently both federal and Michigan laws prohibit the unauthorized access of digital assets. Also, custodians of digital assets such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, etc., have service agreements which govern the use of digital assets. These agreements are enforceable contracts which specify who can access the content.
To address this issue, last fall a bill was introduced and passed the Michigan House of Representatives called the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” or FADAA. If it becomes law, FADAA will provide some much needed clarity to this issue.
In the meantime, if you don’t own a computer or smart phone, use Facebook, send or receive text messages or email, electronically store photos or other information, you probably need not worry about digital assets. For everyone else, you need to make sure your estate plan – will, trust, durable power of attorney – provides access to your digital assets.
The electronic world has brought enormous changes to how we live. It is critical that your estate plan adapt to these changes. To make sure your loved ones can access your digital assets, see an experienced elder law attorney today.