Digital assets and what happens to them after you pass away are fairly new concerns for people. However, this issue must be given significant thought, since so much of our lives are impacted by the digital age. To help alleviate these concerns and give more control to those managing estates of the recently incapacitated or deceased, Congress passed The Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, otherwise known as RUFADAA. This act allows fiduciaries (executors, trustees, and agents working with a Power of Attorney) to manage digital accounts owned by others, while at the same time affording the account owner a level of privacy.
RUFADAA addresses the needs of fiduciaries to manage various digital assets, most of which we wouldn’t even think of until it’s too late, like online utility and bill pay accounts, social media, and online subscriptions. This law faced significant logistical hurdles, however, since the digital age is still fairly recent. Questions were raised regarding legal rights to another’s digital assets in the event of death or incapacitation, while password protection placed obstacles in front of fiduciaries when trying to access and manage these accounts.
The law has seen significant revisions since it was first introduced in 2014, as many digital providers expressed reservations over legal liabilities that could arise from fiduciaries accessing others’ private accounts. As of now, the authority of the fiduciary over the digital assets has been narrowed and provisions were made to address privacy concerns, such as the need to gain explicit consent from a deceased or incapacitated person beforehand, an explanation from the fiduciary to the probate court about why access to digital assets is necessary, and the ability for digital service providers to limit their compliance to “reasonably necessary” assets.
California enacted RUFADAA in 2016, so it is still a very new law in the grand scheme of things. The best way to avoid any issues concerning your digital assets is to consult with a lawyer who can help you make a plan with your expected fiduciaries concerning your digital assets.
If you would like to get more information about Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act and how it governs digital assets in California, or if you’re currently involved in a probate matter and facing issues with digital assets, please set up an appointment at our Encino elder law office by calling (818) 905-6088.