Tax Blog

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets

Think of what would happen right now if you lost your smart phone. You could potentially lose all of your contacts, in some cases very valuable contacts. This is what part of your digital estate. A digital estate is anything that is reduced to digital form including pictures, email accounts, phone access, and even virtual currency. Digital estate planning includes what happens to every electronic or digital asset or communication that you have.

The matter of digital estate planning has become so critical, that so far 19 states (including Illinois, New York, Florida, Arizona, and Washington) have enacted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (the Act) in order to address these issues. The same Act has also been introduced in 10 states as well.

In life and in death, certain people have privileges to manage your property, these people are known as fiduciaries. Common forms of fiduciaries include executors of people’s estates, trustees, conservators, and agents under power of attorney. This Act allows fiduciaries to manage a person’s or persons’ digital property such as computer files, websites, photos, and virtual currency. The Act specifically excludes brokerage accounts and bank accounts. The apparent reason is that these are monetary and are part of the person’s regular estate. The Act also amends the Criminal Code in Illinois insofar as to eliminate a fiduciary’s criminal responsibility in getting to these files. In certain limited circumstances, it allows access to the person’s communications as well.

Under federal law, only users, custodians, or other specifically assigned agents may access a person’s communications. This act alerts interested people that they must specifically authorize their fiduciaries of to act on their behalf of their estate regarding their communications. The Act also allows for the person to direct their fiduciary to delete or eliminate communications as well.

CONCLUSION

How many hours do we spend scrolling on and posting family pictures and blogs to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all the like? What would your family lose if these communications were lost? Don’t dodge business succession and estate planning. Start today by making a phone call. Your heirs and employees depend on you to keep the business open and for their support. In the day of the Internet, it is particularly important to plan your digital estate as well and if you decide offer your heirs access to your communications as well.

The Center routinely advises on the matters of estate planning, business succession, and business valuation. If you have a substantial online or digital estate get on your game right now and make a phone call.

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