Digital Property and Minnesota Estate Planning

Q: What happens to my online assets upon my death?

The cyberworld we live in requires unique estate planning.

Truth be told, many of us have difficulty being separated our cell phones and tablets for minutes – – much less an eternity. But have you ever considered what would happen to all of your online accounts after you’re gone? Just like your other more tangible property that you plan to distribute after you die, you have digital property rights to confer as well.

Comprehensive estate planning today should include provisions for the disposition of your digital property because –unlike you—cyberspace is forever. And differing rules govern and restrict who owns and may access those accounts both during your life and thereafter.

What, exactly is “digital property”?

Digital property includes such items as:

  • electronically stored data

  • user accounts (such as email accounts, social networking accounts, and online storage accounts)

  • virtual currency

  • domain names

What’s in your computer? Email accounts, Word documents, a lifetime of digital photos– and that’s just for starters. Now, what accounts are accessible from your computer? Think of all those social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.), your websites and domain names (GoDaddy), virtual currency accounts (bitcoin, PayPal, Venmo), online businesses (Etsy, Ebay), digital photo storage sites (Snapfish, Shutterfly, DropBox), and countless more. Without a plan or written authorization, your family or fiduciaries may have challenges accessing these accounts after you die or become disabled.

Who do you want to have access to what accounts? Sometimes, the person you want to manage or receive your digital assets may be the same as the person receiving or managing your tangible personal and financial property. Other times, it may be someone different. Or maybe you don’t want anyone to have access to certain accounts—or you want them deleted once you’re gone.

In Minnesota as in many states, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) allows digital property owners to give designated fiduciaries “access to and authority to manage digital property” –but without it, access to said property may be impeded. Whether you prefer that your intangible digital property also is managed by the designated executor, trustee and/or agent under a power of attorney for property named in your estate planning documents–or by someone else entirely–your estate planning documents should confer that specific authority to the named fiduciaries for purposes of clarification.  

Remember to consider whether that person would be adept or lame at handling your digital property. Uncle Henry may be a savvy financial investor and organized executor for your estate someday, but unlike your niece, Chelsea the social media whiz, he may never have heard of Instagram, Go Posted in Estate Planning