By Lillian C. Dunlevy, CFP®, CES™

Digital Asset Planning Feature BB&T PerspectivesHave you ever wondered what happens to your priceless photos, personal emails and overall digital footprint – after your death? You should.

Every second, two new members are added to LinkedIn, eight new Facebook accounts are created and more than 500 photos are uploaded to Instagram. Questions surrounding the disposition of these assets upon an individual’s death or incapacity are common. When a person dies or becomes incapacitated, the significant legal, procedural and privacy issues surrounding his or her personal files and online accounts need to be understood by fiduciaries.

Digital Asset Legislation

Passwords, log-in requirements, encryption and terms of service agreements can prohibit fiduciaries from gaining access to the electronic communications needed to fulfill their administrative duties. In response, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafted and approved the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA), which acknowledges the importance of access to digital property after death and incapacitation. ULC intended that, unless the accountholder instructs otherwise, legally appointed fiduciaries would have data privileges.

However, in an effort to emphasize user rights, the tech industry responded with an alternative, known as the Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act (PEAC). This proposal suggests that digital assets present astute privacy concerns and holds that access to these assets should be released only upon court order – when deemed necessary to administer a deceased estate.

While online security and rights legislation evolves, many estate planning attorneys and financial planners encourage clients to explicitly direct within an estate plan (Will, Trust, and/or Power of Attorney) how digital data should be handled. Failure to plan ahead may prevent loved ones from recovering valuable and memorable data – or conversely, could lead to the releasing of sensitive information to unwanted users and, ultimately, violating an individual’s privacy.

Making Preparations

Consider the following when preparing a digital estate plan:

  • Create a “Digital Audit” by summarizing online accounts (such as social media sites, e-mail handles, banking and retail logins). Consider storing username and password information separately in a protected lockbox or an encrypted vault.
  • Appoint a digital personal representative who is knowledgeable and capable of managing electronic communication.
  • Provide detailed instructions for each account, notating which accounts should be closed or maintained.
  • Read the user Terms of Service agreement for each account and incorporate all selected privacy elections into the planning documents.

Protect your digital assets with some preparation and planning. Your Wealth advisor can assist you with incorporating digital assets into your estate plan.

By Lillian C. Dunlevy, CFP®, CES™

Digital Asset Planning Feature BB&T Perspectives

Have you ever wondered what happens to your priceless photos, personal emails and overall digital footprint – after your death? You should.

Every second, two new members are added to LinkedIn, eight new Facebook accounts are created and more than 500 photos are uploaded to Instagram. Questions surrounding the disposition of these assets upon an individual’s death or incapacity are common. When a person dies or becomes incapacitated, the significant legal, procedural and privacy issues surrounding his or her personal files and online accounts need to be understood by fiduciaries.

Digital Asset Legislation

Passwords, log-in requirements, encryption and terms of service agreements can prohibit fiduciaries from gaining access to the electronic communications needed to fulfill their administrative duties. In response, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafted and approved the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA), which acknowledges the importance of access to digital property after death and incapacitation. ULC intended that, unless the accountholder instructs otherwise, legally appointed fiduciaries would have data privileges.

However, in an effort to emphasize user rights, the tech industry responded with an alternative, known as the Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act (PEAC). This proposal suggests that digital assets present astute privacy concerns and holds that access to these assets should be released only upon court order – when deemed necessary to administer a deceased estate.

While online security and rights legislation evolves, many estate planning attorneys and financial planners encourage clients to explicitly direct within an estate plan (Will, Trust, and/or Power of Attorney) how digital data should be handled. Failure to plan ahead may prevent loved ones from recovering valuable and memorable data – or conversely, could lead to the releasing of sensitive information to unwanted users and, ultimately, violating an individual’s privacy.

Making Preparations

Consider the following when preparing a digital estate plan:

  • Create a “Digital Audit” by summarizing online accounts (such as social media sites, e-mail handles, banking and retail logins). Consider storing username and password information separately in a protected lockbox or an encrypted vault.
  • Appoint a digital personal representative who is knowledgeable and capable of managing electronic communication.
  • Provide detailed instructions for each account, notating which accounts should be closed or maintained.
  • Read the user Terms of Service agreement for each account and incorporate all selected privacy elections into the planning documents.

Protect your digital assets with some preparation and planning. Your Wealth advisor can assist you with incorporating digital assets into your estate plan.

About the Author

Lillian C. Dunlevy

Lillian C. Dunlevy

Vice President, Business and Financial Planning Strategist

Lillian brings extensive experience to her work with business owners, executives and other affluent individuals and families in Northern Virginia. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, she often speaks at national conferences, retirement communities, financial fitness forums and faith-based seminars on a variety of financial topics.