When we think of inheritable assets, we usually think of bank accounts, cars, and real estate. We do not normally think of data stored on our grandparents’ computers as something we hope they pass on to us. Yet, times are changing, and digital assets can be extremely valuable. Unfortunately, people sometimes forget to include them in their estate planning documents.
Managing digital assets in Kendall probate can be challenging, but a savvy probate attorney can help. We can ensure estate planning documents include digital assets and allows access to the trustee or beneficiary. If you are already working with digital assets in the probate process, a lawyer helps you get the access you need to evaluate and distribute them appropriately.
What Are Digital Assets?
A digital asset is anything of value that exists only virtually or online. Many people have photographs, movies, music, and books uploaded to their computers and phones. In the past, these items would have existed in tangible form and be distributed to a deceased person’s heirs or beneficiaries. Now, they are digital assets.
Digital photos, music, and books likely have minimal financial value but might have sentimental significance to the family. Other digital assets could have substantial financial value, such as:
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs);
- YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or other social media accounts where the deceased person had a revenue-generating following;
- Information, documents, or other data stored on the deceased person’s device or in the cloud; and
- Websites and blogs that generate revenue.
Frequent flyer miles, credit card rewards, and benefits from merchant loyalty programs are other digital assets that could have substantial value.
One challenge with digital assets is family members might not be aware of them. Anyone who owns digital assets should include them in their estate planning documents and take steps to ensure that the person who manages their estate has access to their digital property. A Kendall attorney can help someone identify their digital assets and ensure they are available to the estate administrator.
Tech Company Rules Often Prevent Access
One of the potential problems with digital assets is ensuring the estate’s executor or personal representative has access to them. Given security concerns and federal privacy laws, even someone with the deceased person’s username and password may not be able to access a deceased person’s account. Many companies and platforms require a court order before they will allow anyone else to access the account.
Some companies allow a user to grant access to another person if they die or become incapacitated. However, users are not always aware they have this option, or they might postpone making the necessary authorizations until it is too late. Sometimes a person uses the company’s tool to designate another person to have access, but the company’s terms of service agreements make it difficult to gain access.
If the digital assets are valuable, it could be worthwhile for an estate administrator to obtain a court order to access them. This will increase the expense of administering the estate and lengthen the time in probate, so they should discuss the pros and cons with a Kendall digital assets attorney.
Digital Asset Access and the Law
Digital assets can be valuable and significant wealth could be lost if the right to access them is lost. Florida Statute § 740.003 attempts to solve the problem by allowing estate representatives access to digital assets on the same basis as tangible assets.
When a deceased person used an online tool to name a person who could access their account, their decision will prevail if the tool allows them to change their designation. That decision overrides the terms of the company’s terms of service agreement.
If the tech company did not provide a tool, or if the tool does not allow the account holder to change their mind, then the account holder must explicitly grant access in a will, trust, or other signed and witnessed document like a power of attorney. A Kendall lawyer can help someone inventory their digital assets and prepare the proper documents to ensure the estate’s administrator or a trustee has the access they need.
Discuss Digital Assets in Probate With a Kendall Attorney Today
Ideally, a person will inventory their digital assets and ensure another person has access to them later. When the digital assets have substantial value, including them in estate planning documents is critical.
If you want to make plans for distributing your digital assets after your death, or if you are administering an estate and need help with digital assets in Kendall probate, contact The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm. There may be steps you can take to gain the access you need.