There’s no doubt about it. The world has drastically changed in just the past 10 years or so. Everything from how we communicate to how we do our banking is mostly digital now. However, as much convenience as the digital era has brought us, some areas of our lives have become that much more complicated to deal with because of it. This is especially true when it comes to real estate planning. In fact, a probate attorney will often begin his or her consultations with questions regarding digital assets. Understandably, this can be quite a surprise, especially for older individuals who may not be too familiar with the concept. However, older people are not the only ones having issues with digital assets. Thus, the following includes further information on how to bequeath your digital assets to your loved ones after you’ve passed.
What Exactly Are Digital Assets & Why Does a Probate Attorney Require Them?
Hold onto your seat because what defines a digital asset includes a lot of things that you may or may not be familiar with. However, understanding exactly what they are is critical to ensuring that you do not forget any of them when it’s time to sit down with your probate attorney. An estate planning attorney in Las Vegas will often ask you a series of questions to further ensure that nothing is forgotten. So what, exactly, are these digital assets? Digital assets are not tangible, meaning that you can’t hold them. For example, a tangible asset is a home because it’s a real location, and it can be touched. However, something such as your social media account would be considered a digital asset. Other examples of digital assets include your online banking information, emails, copyright licenses, and even your cryptocurrency, to name a few. Now you understand why most probate attorneys in Las Vegas will delve deep into your life before helping you start on your estate plan.
The Importance of Being Specific
After your probate lawyer has gone through all your digital assets, he or she is then going to ask who you want your assets to transfer to at the time of your death. This is not only an important step but one that you should be as specific as possible. This is because if there is no specific beneficiary within your estate plan, all your digital assets will be passed onto residuary beneficiaries. These people usually receive the remaining parts of your estate after property and other assets have been given to the family. Although some people see tangible assets, such as a home or car, as a much more important thing to concentrate on, digital assets, such as a cryptocurrency account, can also hold a lot of value. Unfortunately, because families do not know or understand digital assets, mistakes in legal fights for those assets can occur.
Digital Assets That Cannot Pass Through an Estate Plan
Contrary to popular belief, there are some limitations on the types of digital assets that you can add and transfer to your will. For example, two of the most common digital assets that are nontransferable within a will include your social media pages and any email accounts you may have. The reason for this is due to the fact that you do not legally own these accounts. Social media and email companies often place certain legal wording within their small print that states that people have a license to use the service but don’t own it outright. So does this mean that you should give up on transferring them to your family? The answer to that is no. The fact is that even if they are not transferable, you should still make a plan regarding their existence after your death. If you have further questions about specific digital assets, speaking to your personal attorney is the best route to take.
Leave Clear Information/Instructions
So you’ve listed all the digital assets that you want to be transferred after your death, but the job isn’t done just yet. The next step involves your chosen executor. The executor is the person that you personally choose to handle your entire estate after your passing. This individual’s responsibilities include distributing property and paying off debts, including the cost of your funeral. Today, however, there is one more task to add to the list of responsibilities, and that includes handling your digital assets. However, even if you have given your executor authority to do so, he or she may still not have any legal grounds to access them. In fact, if the executor does end up getting legal permission, he or she will still have to go battle with the companies themselves. Thus, it is highly recommended that you leave clear and up-to-date login information for him or her to use. It must be noted that some people may not exactly want their executor to gain access to every single digital asset, so working with your attorney to find ways to decide who and how these assets are going to be handled is highly encouraged.
Appointing a “Digital Executor”
Yes, a digital executor is a real thing. As stated above, because a lot of things have changed in the area of estate planning, several state governments have quickly taken steps to make the process that much easier. One of those changes includes the ability to add a digital executor to your estate plan. This is a person who may deal with your tangible assets but can also be solely responsible for digital assets. Utilizing the new Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), he or she can quickly gain access to your accounts and begin the proper distribution process. The goal of state governments is to make the process much easier and up to date. Something to keep in mind is that RUFADAA is not present within all 50 states as a few have barely begun to introduce it. However, those living in the state of Nevada can rest assured that RUFADAA is currently enacted.