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Park Ridge IL Medicaid and Estate Planning Legal Blog

Monday, August 21, 2017

Incorporating Digital Assets in Illinois Estate Planning

Q: What happens to my digital assets after I die?

A significant portion of the population is actually addicted to their technology. Not only are their cell phones and tablets glued to their hands, but their eyes don't stray from the screen for long either. Texting and driving is now a national crisis.

And although many can't bear the thought of being separated from their devices for minutes – – much less an eternity–-modern comprehensive estate planning should include provisions for our digital assets because the reality is…some digital property can exist forever, but you can’t.

So, what are “digital assets”?

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."

Without a plan or written authorization, the access to and management of digital property can be challenging for surviving family members (or fiduciaries) after the property owner or account holder dies or becomes disabled.

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.

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. Unless you prefer that your digital assets be collected and managed by someone other than the executor, trustee and/or agent under a power of attorney for property you’ve designated as fiduciaries in your estate planning documents, your estate planning documents should confer that specific authority to the named fiduciaries for purposes of clarification. However, if someone else would actually be better suited to manage and collect digital property, that too should be spelled out clearly in your estate plan.

Some digital property has built-in online tools allowing users to access, memorialize, delete, or otherwise manage a user’s account in the event of death or disability. The Facebook legacy contact is one example. Google’s inactive account manager is another.

Do you have a hard time keeping track of all your different passwords and accounts? Well, imagine leaving that mess behind to someone else to manage without easy—or any--access. Why not set up a password manager program, such as Password Corral, that stores all your "website accounts and the user names and passwords used to access them". Some even include a designated emergency contact person who can access that important information in the event of the user’s death or disability.

Estate planning needs to keep pace with the rapid changes in modern technology. Between numerous social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest), websites and domain names (GoDaddy), virtual currency (bitcoin, PayPal, Venmo), online businesses (Etsy, Ebay), digital photos (Snapfish, Shutterfly, DropBox), and countless more, digital assets must be considered in today's estate planning.

If you would like to create or revise your estate plan, the Law Office of Thomas J. Hansen can assist you. Contact us today for a consultation. From our office in Park Ridge, we serve clients throughout Illinois in all aspects of Medicaid, elder law and estate planning.

Thomas J. Hansen, LTD. assists clients in Park Ridge, Cook County, IL as well as Niles, Des Plaines, Glenview, Norridge, and Rosemont.

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