With the advancements of technology, we as a society spend more and more time on the internet. Much of our daily lives are spent reviewing online financial accounts, online shopping, taking and saving pictures or videos, and listening to music. The internet and cellphone applications have created a whole new way that many of us transact and conduct our daily banking and bill paying. The internet makes our lives more convenient, but it also adds complexity. If you died or became incapacitated, would your family know how to access your online accounts and pay your bills? Would someone know your passwords to be able to save your important data?
Digital Assets not only includes online financial accounts but also includes streaming platforms, social media, digital photographs and videos, blogs, documents in the Cloud, email, cellphone applications, etc. Most often, access and control of the Digital Assets are governed by the companies’ policies or user contracts. However, on January 19, 2021, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), took effect in Pennsylvania. Under the new law, an individual can authorize their agent under a Power of Attorney or their Executor under their estate, the ability to access and transfer their Digital Assets.
To plan for your Digital Assets, it is important that your Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney explicitly authorize your Executor and Agent the power to access your Digital Assets. Therefore, you should have your Will and POA revised to address this if they do not already. Additionally, as part of your overall estate plan it is advisable to have a complete list that identifies your Digital Assets and provides instructions to your Executor and Agent on how to access these assets. It is also important to carve out exceptions to the access to Digital Assets. You must carefully consider what data and information you want your Executor to be able to access upon your death or your POA in the event of your incapacity. For example, you may not want your agent to have full access to your iCloud or social media such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Many online platforms allow you to direct the company to grant access to a specific person in certain circumstances. For example, Facebook does allow you to designate a beneficiary to your account. Additionally, Google has a similar option for allowing an individual access to your account after a period of inactivity.
If you want your family and loved ones to have access to your online accounts and assets, it is important to take the necessary steps to allow them that access.
The legal advice in this column is general in nature, consult your attorney for advice to fit your particular situation.
Rebecca A. Hobbs, Esquire is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She is a principal of the law firm of O’Donnell, Weiss & Mattei, P.C., 41 High Street, Pottstown, and 347 Bridge Street, Phoenixville,610-323-2800, www. owmlaw.com. You can reach Ms. Hobbs at email@example.com