Estate Planning with Digital Assets

With each passing day, our society becomes more technology dependent. To illustrate this point, try going an entire day without the use of a smart phone, laptop, touchscreen, or old fashioned desktop. Since you can't, you realize that our lives are increasingly online.

As always, the world of estate planning has fallen behind on this trend. Traditional estate planning concerns physical assets, like a house, vehicle, or bank account. In light of this ever increasing involvement of technology in our lives, what should happen to our digital assets when we are incapacitated or pass away? Is there anything we can do?

First, let’s start with whether there is anything we can do. Here in good old Idaho, we have actually made a proactive step. Nationally, a legal group think-tank called the Uniform Law Commission set out to create a uniform law for all states to either adopt, modify, or reject, called the Fiduciary Access to Digital Property During Incapacitation or After Death act. Idaho was the fifth (5th) state in the US to adopt a law concerning the ability to access digital property.

Idaho Statutes § 15-3-715(28), signed into law March 16, 2011, gives the personal representative of a deceased person’s estate the powers “to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate” a deceased person’s e-mail account, social networking account, microblogging account, or short messaging service Web site. Idaho Statutes § 15-5-424(3)(z) also grants similar powers to a person’s conservator. Unfortunately, these laws fall short of the current scope of online accounts and digital property, and they only apply to personal representatives and conservators.

But, fear not, although this law falls short of the current technological landscape for online accounts, this is only a default rule. This means you can give any trusted person more access than the default rule calls for. In our will or trust agreements, we authorize more access than the statute allows.

Jeppesen Law, PLLC provides to all of our estate planning clients a digital property inventory. On the inventory, the client writes down all usernames and passwords for all of their digital property. They store it in a safe place. If the time comes that a power of attorney or personal representative needs access to online accounts, they have all the information they need to ensure you are taken care of.

What type of information is included on the digital property inventory? Aside from the accounts listed in the Idaho Statute, we include utilities, bank accounts, mortgage companies, services, and anything that would require a monthly fee to be paid.

Why do we include so much information? We are preparing for incapacitation. If you are temporarily incapacitated, you would still want your house payment to stay current, with the lights on, internet to still work, and you wouldn’t want your car repossessed. 

Essentially, your attorney-in-fact stands in your place to ensure your bills are paid when you would pay them.

Schedule a conversation with Justin Jeppesen to take the first step towards creating your own estate plan! With our Free Initial Consultation we help our clients explore their own situations and plan for their futures. To help jump-start your own planning, download and complete the Client Information Form.

If you have more questions, we'd love to help! Contact Jeppesen Law now. (208) 477-1785