In today’s world, so much of our day-to-day lives involve technology and the internet. Most have switched to online banking, online bill paying, and utilize various apps and data storage plans. While technology and the internet are convenient, it has taken the laws sounding estate planning time to catch up.
On July 23, 2020, Governor Wolf signed into law Act 72 of 2020 the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, or RUFADAA. The act will take effect in 180 days from the date it was signed. This act is meant to make accessing digital assets much easier for fiduciaries. A fiduciary is an individual or entity that is acting on the behalf of another person, such as an agent under a power of attorney or an executor where a person is deceased. Prior to the enactment of this law, Pennsylvania was one of the few states that did not have definitive law that granted fiduciaries the authority to access digital assets. Some of the fiduciaries under Act 72 that are granted authority include, executors under a will, an agent under a power of attorney, and a guardian appointed through the court.
Digital assets include social media, online banking accounts, various apps, online storage of data such as personal documents, music, and photographs. It is important to understand that the fiduciary is still subject to the various agreements the owner of the digital assets had with the provider of the service.
In light of the new law in Pennsylvania, it is important to check your estate planning documents to make sure that your documents address digital assets. For example, check your Durable Power of Attorney to make sure that it specifically discusses digital accounts and assets. It is also important to check your online accounts and read the terms and conditions of the service agreement. Often social medial platforms, and online accounts grant their users the ability to grant access to a third party in the event of your death or incapacity. For example, Facebook allows you to designate a legacy contact. If your estate plan does not address digital assets, you may want to consider revising your estate plan to make sure that your family or loved ones are able to access these assets,
Three easy steps to take to make sure that your family and loved ones are able to access your digital assets are:
(1) Make sure your estate plan deals with digital assets; (2) Check your online accounts to see if there is a way to nominate an individual to access your account in the event of your death or incapacity; (3) Keep an ongoing list of where you have accounts and what the user name, passwords, and pins are for those accounts. Keep this list somewhere secure but let your agent under your power of attorney and your executor know how to access this list.
Taking the above steps will make it easier for your family to access your digital assets in the event of your incapacity or death and therefore lessen the risk of losing access to your online life and assets.
If you have any questions, or require assistance, contact the elder law team at OWM Law at 610-323-2800, or email Rebecca Hobbs, CELA© at firstname.lastname@example.org
The legal advice in this column is general in nature, consult your attorney for advice to fit your particular situation.