What Happens to Your Digital Assets When You Die?
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
In 1996, there were 36 million users on the Internet. Now, only 20 years later, the numbers have grown over a 100 times that to 3.6 billion users. You probably use the Internet on a daily basis – checking social media, doing online banking, communicating via email, or surfing the web. In today’s world, most people live their life online. So what happens to your digital assets when you become incapacitated or die?
First of all, what are your digital assets? A digital asset is an electronic asset that you have a right to or an interest in. It includes things such as emails, online bank accounts, iTunes, online storage areas, websites, social media, online credit card/bill payments, and more. As of July 1, 2016, the Indiana code has updated and expanded its statute on digital assets. The amendments to this statute increase the ability a fiduciary has to access your digital assets. “Fiduciary” in this statute refers to personal representatives, attorneys-in-fact, guardians, and trustees. Some of the amendments include:
Fiduciaries have the right to a catalog of electronic communications or digital assets
Fiduciaries can access the content of electronic communication sent or received by the individual
A distributee under a Small Estate Affidavit can also access the catalog and content of any digital assets for a decedent
Attorneys-in-fact who are given general authority over electronic records, reports, and statements are authorized to do the following:
Gain access to any computer, storage device, network, communications device, or other computing machinery that the principal owns, leases, or otherwise has license to access
Gain access to any user account the principal maintains with an online service provider
Access, retrieve, copy, or store: (A) the content of an electronic communication; (B) a catalog of electronic communications sent or received by the principal; or (C) any other digital asset in which the principal has a right or interest
Perform any act in connection with the preparation, execution, filing, storage, or other use of electronic records, reports, and statements concerning the principal’s affairs
The expansion of these powers make it much easier for your fiduciary to access your digital assets. However, with the growing number of online accounts, it could be very difficult and time-consuming for your fiduciary to find all the online accounts that you are associated with.
To help solve this problem, we have a packet called “Information for My Heirs” available on our website. This packet allows you to keep all your important information in one place, making it easier for your family when you pass. The last section in that packet refers to a list of usernames and passwords. It would be advisable to create this list for your important online accounts and keep the list with your packet.