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Florida Digital Assets Bill Progresses

Posted on: November 27th, 2015
digital estate planningEarlier this year, legislation addressing digital asset management in estate planning was introduced in Florida. However, the bill died not long after it was introduced. Then Senate Bill 494 was filed in early October 2015. The bill, described as the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary committee.

The Act would allow the appointment of a custodian with explicit powers over a ward or a decedent’s digital assets. One of the many challenges that an executor or surviving family faces when managing a decedent’s online accounts is that their use of the service violates the unique terms of service agreements associated with the particular service provider. Included in the proposed Florida legislation are provisions that would provide immunity to the digital asset custodian. 

A few things individuals should consider, regardless of whether or not their state has legislation pertaining to digital assets, are internal legacy planning features that many online providers are now including as options with their services. Estate planning conflicts could develop if the account owner makes certain selections with these services that do not align with the executor they have selected in their estate planning documents. For example, Facebook allows users to appoint a Legacy Contact, which affords limited authorities for the postmortem management of the decedent’s Facebook account. Should the decedent’s will appoint a person other than the Legacy Contact to have authority over the account, problems will likely surface. 

Google also offers an Inactive Account Management (IAM) service, which is triggered by a specified period of inactivity. An executor might attempt to identify or transfer funds from Google Wallet, preserve sentimental images from Google Photos for surviving family members, or access a number of other Google applications that were under the decedent’s account. However, estate administration delays could arise if the user’s settings in the IAM were not updated along with estate planning documents.

Digital estate planning is an evolving area of law that individuals should routinely inquire about. Have you made arrangements for your online accounts in your estate plans? Let us know on Twitter @estateplansNC and Facebook.
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