Planning for Digital Assets

Feb 5, 2019 | Estate Planning & Administration

More than ever before, people are relying on the internet to store data, communicate, and manage their finances. Some may continue to use traditional mail, written checks or filing cabinets for storing documents, but many are moving to Cloud storage, social media, and online bill-pay services as a more digitized lifestyle becomes the norm. With the shift to digital comes new considerations in estate planning. When loved ones pass away, there is typically a plan put in place to divide assets such as property, stocks and family heirlooms, but now it’s also important to have a plan for distributing and managing digital assets after death. Common digital assets include: online portals for utility payments, family photos, text messages, social media profiles, airline miles, online game points, computer software, client or patient records, encrypted documents and much more. Because everything is password protected, it can be difficult for families to gain access online.  Digital privacy laws can create further obstacles for families, leading to frustration and anxiety during a time when they should be focused on remembering the life of a loved one. For these reasons, incorporating digital assets into estate plans has become a standard practice. In Tennessee, under the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, account holders are allowed to maintain control of their digital property throughout their lifetime and plan for a fiduciary to handle the disposition of those assets after death. This legislation enables a fiduciary like Cumberland Trust, with the permission of the client, to take on the digital asset administration process. As trustee or executor, Cumberland Trust focuses on adjusting, transferring or closing online accounts or files, following the decedent’s wishes, without putting the family through the stress of tracking down passwords and permissions and making decisions about digital assets.
“At Cumberland Trust, we’re committed to helping families plan for the future, protect their assets and maintain the integrity of their legacies,” said Rachel Fuqua Klages, Vice President and Director, Estate Administration. “Our team approaches digital assets just as we do physical assets, honoring the wishes of the deceased while providing support to their loved ones.
As the world becomes more digitized, considering digital assets and including plans for proper administration in an estate plan protects accounts and data that are often important to a family’s history and legacy. The often tedious administrative side of the post-mortem process can bring unwanted stress during a time of grief, and spending time tracking down lost passwords or closing online accounts only increases the challenges. Fiduciaries, like Cumberland Trust, exist to minimize that headache.