14 Jun THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ – PLANNING FOR DIGITAL ASSETS (WHICH MOST DON’T REALIZE THEY OWN)
The law evolves as technology does, therefore planning must change as well. Most Americans now have “digital assets” – but probably don’t know what this type of asset is. A digital asset is an electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest. Under the Texas Estates Code, a digital asset includes email accounts, cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin), online records from banks and investment accounts, social media (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) accounts, digital books, digital music and downloads, digital photos stored online, digital videos and movie downloads, software licenses, commercial accounts, cloud storage, website registrations, domain registrations, web hosting accounts, and any other data that is stored on any device (cell phone, iPad, computer, etc.) or medium or by remote computing service. While emails, text messages, word processing documents and online utility, credit card and financial accounts are digital assets, these do not generally include the underlying asset. So, an online bank statement is a digital asset, but the money is not.
One problem that tends to arise with digital assets is that custodians such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Shutterfly, etc. have previously been reluctant to give access to the information, etc. This ranges from holding access to online banking records to photos held on your cell phone when you are either mentally disabled or incapacitated or no longer living. Many people forego paper statements from bank accounts, brokerage accounts, utilities, credit cards, loans, home mortgages, etc. which an executor might need to pay bills, prepare an estate inventory and distribute funds.
As a result of such obstacles, most states (including Texas) have passed the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Even language in the Texas statutory financial powers of attorney now grant agents the authority to deal with digital assets (powers of attorney terminate at death). Therefore, if you have an older will, trust and/or financial power of attorney and you have a digital account in which you want your agent, executor and/or trustee to have access upon your death or disability, you might consider updating those documents to include access to those digital assets.
For example, do you want your executor or agent or trustee to be able to read your emails, texts or social media postings? Your estate planning must consider changes in (1) your health and the health of beneficiaries, (2) your relationships or the relationships of beneficiaries, (3) your assets (amount and type), and (4) the law.
If interested in attending our next free ($1,000 value as attendees also get a free meeting) Estate Planning Essentials Workshop on June 16, click here or call (214) 720-0102.