Scott Bieber of Thompson Coburn LLP has recently published some of the most on-point coverage on the topic of digital assets that we’ve seen in a long time. The conversation surrounding the topic of the “Digital Afterlife” has only very recently started circulating through mainstream media, and there seems to be a lot of confusion about how we’re supposed to manage it when it comes to estate planning. Too often the advice that is given is more than wrong – it could actually steer the recipient toward problems with the law. This inaccurate advice is often time presented by companies, firms, and representatives that not only should have accurate information, but quite frankly have a duty to provide the truth, and yet – they don’t. These sources portray an authority over the topic that can misguide readers toward taking actions that might ultimately put them in not so green pastures.
We’ve picked out a few key points from the Coburn article that we felt were particularly insightful, and yes, correct:
The biggest challenge may be finding [digital assets] after a death. If your family or named fiduciary isn’t aware that you have a Dropbox account, no one may ever look for it.
…There are currently federal and state laws that may make it a criminal offense for anyone other than the account owner to access an account. This is true even if the owner gives another person permission to do so.
…There is hope, though. By the end of 2017, it is expected that almost every state will have enacted some form of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. RUFADAA will allow for users to request a service provider to give a fiduciary access either by opting in on an online tool furnished by the service provider or through one’s estate planning documents.
More than anything though, we always encourage all readers to research the topic heavily before taking advice from what could be a misguided source, and if making use of an online tool (e.g. DCS), it should never require the passwords to your digital assets.
For the complete article, please visit the Thompson Coburn LLP website: “New Laws may Give Fiduciaries Power to Access Digital Assets”.