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How to deal with digital assets in an estate plan

As one of the states that have adopted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised (RUFADAA), Ohio offers protections for fiduciaries that allow them to access a dead person's digital assets. In the past, a fiduciary had access to a person's financial and personal documents after that person's death, but the issue of digital access is more complicated.

Depending on the situation, it may be illegal for a fiduciary to access a digital account. In some cases, it is against a site's terms of service even if the owner has given the fiduciary the password information. The RUFADAA clarifies several legal points. If the owner has used the site's online tools to designate the fiduciary to manage the account, this gives the fiduciary access. If the owner does not take this option or the option does not exist, the owner can put instructions in a trust, will or another document.

If there is no instruction from the owner, the terms of service must be followed. If there is no information, the fiduciary can access information, such as email addresses, but not content, such as the email itself.

Digital assets may also include photos, music, books and more. A person might also want to leave instructions about who will receive these.

In some ways, including digital assets in an estate plan is not very different from dealing with other types of assets. There may be assets that have monetary value, such as bitcoin accounts or valuable domain names. On the other hand, some important assets may just have sentimental value. An estate holder should talk about their wishes with family members and review and update the plan for digital assets regularly just as they would aspects of a will.

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