In an earlier post, there was a discussion about Maryland’s Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. But what has Virginia done with respect to digital assets? Virginia has not adopted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (“UFADAA”) or any version of it. Instead, in 2015 Virginia adopted a version of the Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act (“PEAC”). Under this statute, a personal representative or executor may petition a court for access to certain information within a deceased individual’s digital records for the 18 month period prior to death. However, the petition will not permit the personal representative to gain access to the content within the digital records unless it can be shown that the deceased individual consented, in some fashion, to have that information released. If the deceased individual did not consent or deleted the information, the information will not be released. Furthermore, the holders of the digital content have the ability to show an undue burden if they release the information, and therefore, can argue against disclosure. The overall impact of Virginia’s statute is still being tested, and therefore, whether it is now simpler for a personal representative to gain access to digital assets is questionable. Furthermore, the statute does not appear to apply to trustees, guardians or agents under a power of attorney or address access to such digital assets during any period of incapacity.
So, what can you do to protect your digital assets but also ensure that your fiduciaries have authority to act on your behalf with respect to your digital assets? You can make sure your last will and testament, revocable living trust and/or general durable power of attorney are updated to include authority and power regarding digital assets. Moreover, you need to organize your digital assets by making sure the location of hard files and back-up files (i.e., in the cloud, on a USB drive, etc.) are known to your fiduciaries. Your fiduciaries will need to be able to provide user names, passwords, answers to security questions and any other authentication methods associated with the accounts.
Finally, your fiduciaries also need to know what digital assets are out there, so be sure to list the following information: e-mail accounts, domain names, online storage accounts (e.g., Dropbox), financial software, bank accounts, securities or brokerage accounts, types of devices, taxes, retirement accounts, credit cards, insurance (e.g., health, homeowners’, car, disability, etc.), debts (e.g. mortgage or car loans), utilities, social media, digital media (e.g., Netflix, Kindle, iTunes), membership or loyalty programs (e.g., frequent flyer accounts) as well as any other account that requires an online presence (e.g., Skype, Amazon or professional affiliations).
When you really think about it, your digital footprint might be quite extensive and your fiduciaries need the information to be better able to provide for your care and handle your estate. #estateplanning #incapacityplanning #estateadministration #digitalassets @bgnthebgn