In today’s world, online connectivity is a vital part of our lives. The majority of us have not just one but multiple social media accounts—with Facebook accounts being the most commonplace of all. These accounts are meaningful to us, and it’s only natural to wonder what happens to them after we die—a question that leads us into the intersection of digital assets and estate planning.
Most estate planning professionals now lump in Facebook and other online profiles with standard assets—meaning they can by encompassed in an estate plan. In this post, we’ll share just a few guidelines to help you understand how digital assets fit into your estate plan.
The first thing to understand here is that, for many of us, our social media accounts are by no means empty or frivolous. A person’s online presence can often be a full-fledged persona—and within that persona there may be all kinds of photos, videos, work portfolios, and other pieces of personal property. That’s to say nothing of accounts that are connected to online bank accounts, credit cards, and other digital payment options.
In other words, we’re not just talking about user names and passwords here. We’re talking about real, personal assets.
When you speak with a California trust administrator or estate planning attorney, then, you want to make sure you define digital assets—the intangible things you want protected by your estate plan.
This can include those banking accounts and work portfolios, but it can also include items of sentimental value—like family photos you’ve uploaded to Facebook. Even the account itself may have sentimental value for you—and thus, it is eligible for inclusion within an estate plan.
Because social media accounts qualify as assets within your estate plan, it’s important to include them as you would any other assets. They may even be included in living trusts and wills. (Ask your attorney for help understanding living trusts.)
Make sure your estate plans provide things like access codes and authorizations for the executor of your will, or for any California trust administration professional who may be working with your estate.
Historically, transferring digital assets from one person to another has been rather challenging, largely due to some of the service agreements in these social media accounts, which restrict easy transference. Thankfully, recent changes to federal regulations have made it much easier to do these transfers, and in particular for estate planning lawyers and executors to access these digital assets without going through too many additional loopholes. (See the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.)
Even so, it’s important to understand the process for giving social media access to another person, such as a fiduciary professional. This is something else you can discuss directly with your attorney.
The bottom line in all of this is that your social media accounts are an important part of your life—and it’s only natural that you’d want to safeguard them. Thankfully, there are ways you can do just that through part of your regular estate planning process.
Whether you’re looking to pass down your Facebook account to the next generation or simply make sure your private information is taken care of, we invite you to speak with an estate planning lawyer today. At Singh Law Firm, we are always ready to talk about living trusts and wills, to help you identify the best ways of protecting your digital assets, and more. Reach out to our estate planning lawyers to set up a time to talk.