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Posted March 13th, 2017

What Happens to Assets in the Cloud When You Pass Away?

Cloud storage concept. Isolated on white background 3d illustration

Educating donors on having clear estate plans is a valuable service you can offer and one that may show reward in charitable gifts via bequests. We’ve seen what can happen to the most famous of us who pass away without plans in place (see “Lessons Learned From Prince’s ‘Estate Plan’” in September 2017 Give & Take). But even those with estate plans are most likely to be missing one element: digital assets.

In most states, service providers’ (Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.) Terms Of Service agreements say that only the person named on the account has any right to that person’s digital accounts. On average, we each have 90 digital accounts. Thus, service providers routinely and legally refuse to allow executors and trustees access to these accounts, even if they know the passwords.

This causes untold problems for loved ones and can seriously slow down estate settlements.

A new Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) is now law in 21 states and proposed in many more. This law says that if an individual says nothing, these assets and records are apt to be gone forever and no executor or trustee will have access. However, if an individual includes a provision in their will, trust or power of attorney explicitly authorizing fiduciary access these accounts, the companies must comply.

The April issue of Give & Take will feature an article with more information. In the meantime, you can learn more about the UFADAA and check on your state’s status on the legislation by clicking here.

by John Jensen

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