These days, one’s digital presence and digital assets are just as, if not more important, than one’s real property and presence. People pay their bills, manage and access their accounts, and even buy cryptocurrency, making their digital assets and information an integral part of their portfolio. When one dies though, digital assets are not treated the same way real property is treated and it is important to keep that in mind as one is drafting their estate plan. Locking heirs and beneficiaries out of inheriting digital assets and executors and fiduciaries without access to them can be detrimental to one’s estate plan.
The ownership of a digital assets or accounts may not automatically be transferred through trusts, wills and powers of attorneys-this depends on the terms of service of agreement and the type of asset in question. Generally, powers of attorney should give the agent the specific authority to take over digital accounts in case an individual is incapacitated. In Texas, recommendations for durable powers of attorney to include digital assets were included in 2017.
When one is assigning powers and responsibilities to go along with them, one should also consider their privacy expectations and include provisions about how to destroy or secure digital assets and include specific directions regarding the matter. Personal representatives of wills should be informed of digital assets and who controls them to ensure they fit into the decedent’s estate plan.
Texas residents should create an inventory of their digital assets, where they are held and how to access them. This list should be periodically updated and should be kept in a safe space-not in the estate planning documents. Items to be included in these documents and directions to be given to trustees, executors and fiduciaries should be clearly included in estate plans. Those seeking to take these steps should speak to an experienced attorney so can ensure that.