Digital Asset Planning
What are digital assets?
Digital Assets are ones that exist on the internet. Some examples include: bitcoin, Facebok, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo, online banking accountings, and digital photos and videos.
Why can’t my fiduciary just have access to my things if something happens to me?
Existing federal privacy laws prohibit an individual from accessing another’s computer and online accounts. Indeed, if your fiduciary accesses your computer without express and appropriate authority to do so, your fiduciary may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. See NY Penal Code §156.05. If that fiduciary retrieves computer material, then that fiduciary may be charged with a Class E Felony. See NY Penal Code §156.10. Without explicit and correctly given authority, your fiduciary will not be allowed to access your digital assets. Therefore, to the extent that you want to enable others to access your computer and online content in the event of your death or incapacity, you should engage in prudent planning of your digital assets. Prudent planning involves making a spreadsheet of your various online accounts and passwords. Consider making this document password protected. You should also appoint a fiduciary for your digital assets.
How can I appoint a fiduciary for my digital assets?
There are a couple of ways to appoint a fiduciary for your digital assets.
Facebook allows you to appoint a Legacy Contact. The legacy contact can respond to new friend requests, update the profile page, and pin a post on the timeline. The Legacy contact can also request that the Facebook page be deleted. The Facebook page can also be converted into a memorial for the Facebook user. Click here for details.
Google allows you to appoint an Inactive Account Manager. Your Account Manager would be notified if your profile has been inactive for a certain number of months. You can choose what happens to your data. You can choose for it to be sent to the Account Manager or you can choose that it be deleted. Click here for details.
For online accounts that do not allow you to specifically designate a fiduciary, or, if you want to just create a carte blanche fiduciary designation, you can insert the relevant digital asset provision in your Will, Trust, and/or Power of Attorney. Consider speaking with an attorney to customize the clauses that would best suit your digital estate planning needs. Please note that if you do create a provision in your documents, then you should appropriately title your Legacy Account holder and your Inactive Account Manager because the Legacy Account holder and the Inactive Account Manager designations will supercede the terms of a carte blanche designation to the extent that the designations differ.
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