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Progress for Digital Assets Act

Posted on: August 1st, 2014
digital asset lawsAmericans’ digital assets are only growing. Legislation governing the administration of digital estates does not yet exist in every state, nor on a federal level. After two years of review, a new act addressing digital assets was approved in late July 2014 and will serve as a model for future state-level legislation.

The Uniform Access to Digital Assets Act was approved by the Uniform Law Commission. What’s included in the Act?
 
Privacy. The Act defers to an individual’s provisions addressing privacy and confidentiality included in a Will or trust.

Four types of fiduciaries. The Act recognizes four fiduciaries: Trustees, guardians/conservators, personal representatives, and agents under a power of attorney.

Media neutrality. Fiduciaries who acquire access to tangible properties after the owner dies are permitted access to digital assets. This may apply to iPads or other tablet devices that provide access to an individual’s digital assets through apps. Representatives will have access to digital properties under the Act, unless the decedent had privacy provisions added to their estate plan.

Under the Act, fiduciaries will have access to an individual’s email and other digital accounts. The provisions address both individuals who have passed away and those who have become incapacitated. 

Whether an individual is concerned about preserving family photos and travel points for loved ones, or ensuring social media profiles are maintained or disposed of according to their wishes, review with an asset protection attorney how existing and pending laws affect the future of online assets. 

Currently only one of the states our estate attorneys serve has existing or pending legislation addressing digital assets. Last year North Carolina was slated to pass legislation that defined digital assets and digital accounts, but the provisions were removed before the bill was signed. Early last year New York lawmakers proposed Bill A823, which would govern executors’ authorities over digital asset matters, and how service providers would comply with executors’ requests for access.

“Digital probate” is a problem in estates where the decedent has not adequately addressed their virtual properties. Without an inventory of assets and a means of accessibility, estate administrators and surviving family members may never learn of the existence of some assets and accounts. Effective digital estate planning can honor an individual’s privacy wishes and preserve assets for the benefit of loved ones.
 
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