While virtually every adult can benefit from estate planning, few do more than simply drafting a will. Even if someone does, they rarely take time to include a comprehensive inventory of all their assets and what they wish to happen with them. In an era in which so many people use online accounts and social media pages, wills should ideally include these digital assets if a testator wants their heirs to have lawful access to them in the future.
If you stop for a second to think about your digital footprint, it’s fairly large. You likely keep a watchful eye over your investment accounts, retirement portfolio or your bank account online. You likely pay your utility bills by logging in. You also likely have at least one social media page or photo album that you manage by via an app or a website.
Unless you include these different digital accounts in your will’s inventory and let your executor know where your passwords are, then they’ll become inaccessible once you’re gone. This is especially the case if the Terms of Service Agreement (TOSA) that you signed when you set up your account prohibits it from being transferred to someone else.
Most states including Michigan have adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) in recent years. This has made it where probate judges in Trenton now have guidelines for handling digital assets. Many subscribe to a beneficiary-style transfer approach. There is a complication with this, however, since RUFADAA can’t be called upon to circumnavigate TOSAs.
Individuals who are intent on memorializing emails, social media content or making sure that loved ones will be able to access online accounts should consult with an estate planning and probate attorney to learn how to best do that.