Estate Planning Digital Assets

Sharan Lee Levine

Under Michigan law, fiduciary acting under a last will and testament or durable power of attorney, or a trustee acting under a trust agreement, can legally request the digital assets of the individual they represent. The durable power of attorney document or trust agreement does grant full power to the fiduciary allowing for the management of all digital assets in order to comply with this law.  A digital asset means “an electronic record in which the user has a right or interest.”  Examples include email accounts, brokerage accounts, social media accounts, text messages, photos, information stored on a phone, airline miles, e-books, videos, digital currency, website domains, or anything stored in the cloud.

This fiduciary power is important for multiple reasons.  Many accounts today are accessible entirely online, and many services offer to send billing statements by email rather than through the regular mail.  It is important for a fiduciary to have access to these accounts and bills that may only be discovered through the various digital assets.  Additionally, digital assets may hold monetary and sentimental value, and a fiduciary must be able to access this value to pass along to beneficiaries.  The fiduciary is held to the same legal standards when managing digital assets and must act to benefit only you and your beneficiaries.

We recommend preparing a complete list of passwords, online user accounts, and other digital property to help fiduciaries and family members find valuable and significant online accounts and digital property.  This preparation can keep administration costs down and can ensure that no digital property is overlooked. Individuals may choose to keep this list in the same location as other important documents or may choose to keep up-to-date in the cloud.  If the latter option is chosen, it is important to include the cloud username and password on a letter of instruction or with other important documents.

If you have any questions regarding digital assets, please call.

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