In 2016, California introduced the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. The legislation clarifies who can access your digital assets after you die and how they can do so.
What are digital assets?
California code defines a digital asset as “an electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest.” Here are some examples:
- Online bank accounts
- Social media accounts
- Email accounts
- Online photo storage
- Online file storage
- Digital music collection
Why would people want access to my digital assets?
People may want access to online assets for several reasons. They would need to access cryptocurrency or online banking to distribute the wealth these represent. They may wish to access social media or email accounts to switch them off when you are no longer alive. Other files may be of sentimental value, such as family photos. Or they could have untapped financial value, such as the unreleased songs a musician stores online.
How do people gain access to digital assets under California law?
There are three ways someone could access your digital assets after your death:
- Online tool: Many online accounts have an online tool to stipulate what will happen to your account when you die. For instance, you could choose to close your Facebook account, or you could give access to a named person.
- Your will: You could name a digital executor in your will. You can also choose not to give access to specific people or anyone at all.
- A court: If you do neither of the above, the person who needs access, usually the executor of your estate, will have to apply for permission to the court.
Digital assets are an easily forgotten aspect of estate planning. An attorney can advise you on the best ways to protect your property and pass it onto your family.