When someone passes away, they leave behind a lifetime of possessions, personal property, and even an online footprint. Now, in addition to the tangible assets of the estate like retirement accounts, jewelry and sports paraphernalia, family members and executors of the estate must decide what to do with email accounts, online bank accounts, and social media posts. In the past, it has been difficult or impossible to access online content, in part due to privacy concerns. Lawmakers across the country are addressing these concerns by adopting laws that allow fiduciary access to digital assets.
Prior to 2016, the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (“UFADAA”) gave Minnesota fiduciaries, including executors, the power to access online accounts. However, accounts often are saved on third-party servers. Companies maintaining these servers balked at allowing access to them, citing privacy among other legal issues.
What does the Minnesota digital assets law accomplish?
In 2016, the Minnesota legislature enacted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (“RUFADAA”). This new law replaces and expands the UFADAA, in part to address the concerns of tech companies, but also to allow access to accounts where necessary.
With the RUFADAA, executors and other fiduciaries may easily access some accounts, while being provided limiting access and management of other accounts. For example, fiduciaries typically have some power over the following types of accounts:
- Computer files;
- Web domains; and
- Virtual currency.
Unless a user has given prior written permission, access is limited for accounts like:
- Text messages; and
- Social media accounts.
According to the Uniform Law Commission, a group that promotes uniformity of laws between states, the RUFADAA “gives Internet users the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets in a similar way as they can make plans for their tangible property.”
What do I need to do about my digital assets?
An executor cares for and manages the assets of an estate. But even the most thorough executor cannot fulfill a testator’s last wishes if those wishes are not recorded or if the assets cannot be located. Talk to your estate planning lawyer about how you want your online presence to be handled by your executor or personal representative.
Call Virtus Law at 612.888.1000 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our main office is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Other offices: Edina, Mendota Heights, and Red Wing.