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Should You Have an Estate Plan for Your Social Media Account?

What happens when a Facebook account holder dies and leaves valuable assets such as family photo albums and digital wallet details, including bank card information on the site? The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) of 2015 amended federal guidelines to family member, executor, attorney-in-fact, or trustee access to digital assets transferred to an estate, trust, or will. The statute specifies express authorization must be obtained by the owner before a family member or fiduciary can access a digital asset for any purpose.

 

Why arrange family and fiduciary access to an account?

The widespread use of digital assets in the form of a personal “account” are now characterized by a range of designated access user identities linking individuals to everything from Bitcoin accounts used for cryptocurrency trading, to social media accounts like Facebook and their ever-expanding platform of services. A fiduciary’s ability to access a decedent’s online accounts requires designation of control for disposition of digital assets by the account holder before death.

Ownership of digital assets during one’s lifetime can be transferred to a testamentary instrument in perpetuity. Unfortunately, social media accounts also store important personal and financial information vulnerable to identity theft once a user is gone. Enacted by New York and most other states, RUFADAA allows an estate holder to protect digital assets and their footprint in perpetuity, by naming a designated user responsible for administration of the account at time of death in their will estate, trust, or will.  

What does “Net Neutrality” have to do with access?

Coinciding with the timely debate surrounding the lapse of U.S. federal “Net Neutrality” legislation, rules to effectively regulate the disposition and control of digital assets by estate executors or trustees charged with the administration of a decedent’s estate, trust or will after they have died or become incapacitated, remain on the horizon. With the lapse in net neutrality, account access could be potentially removed by an ISP service provider.

 

Review the policies of the online service provider used by an account owner for details about access-authorization tools and terms and conditions to access. Consult a licensed attorney about service-agreement limitations on usernames and passwords before transferring those credentials to an executor or a family member to ensure access, management, distribution, copy, deletion, or closure of an account does not violate “unauthorized use” laws.

 

New York Estate Law Attorney

In addition to FUFADAA, estate planning clients in New York state are subject to the statutory provisions of New York Consolidated Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law – EPT . Ettinger Law Firm is a licensed New York attorney practice offering estate planning and probate litigation services. Contact Ettinger Law Firm for a consultation about an estate planning matter involving digital assets.  

See Related Blog Posts

Digital Property and Estate Planning

Social Media Estate Planning: Adding a Facebook Legacy Contact

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