What Happens To My Online Accounts When I Die?

The 2017 Nebraska Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act now allows an individual to provide for their electronic assets in an estate plan. 

        Nebraska, along with over 30 other states, enacted a law which discusses what happens to digital assets after death. The Nebraska Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (“the Act”) went into effect January 1, 2017, and provides guidance concerning how a fiduciary (e.g. Trustee, Personal Representative) may gain access to the digital devices of a deceased user.

        So what does the Act really mean for you? It’s simple. You can now grant someone the absolute authority to control any and all Digital Devices and digital information in your estate plan.  This, in turn, will provide an easier avenue for a specified individual to gain access to accounts and will grant them with widespread power over your digital devices, whether for the purpose of continuing your business efforts, settling your affairs, or to simply collect lifelong memories. 

        Let’s take a moment to reflect on all the ways we rely on the internet and different online applications in our daily lives.  Some may conduct significant business transactions via PayPal and Gmail; while others may market services, acquire clientele and procure payment through social media accounts, such as Etsy, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Although every person uses technology in varying ways and for different reasons, many do not consider what happens to their digital records upon death.  

       Prior to the enactment of the Act, unless you left a specific person with all your username and password information prior to death, it was common for an individual to have to jump through quite a few hoops if they wanted to acquire access to and control of “digital assets” and digital information of a deceased user from the corresponding provider.  In essence, this meant that even after someone died, many of their digital assets continued to exist, leaving no one the power to access, modify, delete, control or transfer any digital information or communications. If the internet plays such an abundant role in our day-to-day lives, why do we put such a huge emphasis on planning for all other aspects of our lives, but not for this one? After all, time is money, and the effort spent gaining access to an account could undeniably be better spent actually running the account.

        It is also important to note that arrangement for your digital assets is only one aspect of estate planning. Incapacity issues, asset protection for you and for beneficiaries, avoiding probate, and minimizing income taxes are all other aims that can be achieved with proper planning.  In addition, changes in your family or to your assets may render your current estate plan outdated. Therefore, we welcome the opportunity to meet and to discuss all of these matters to ensure that your estate plan reflects your current objectives. 

        For more information on the Nebraska Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, how to provide for the Act in your estate plan, or any other matters relating to estate planning and probate, please contact Michelle J. Elkin with Erickson | Sederstrom.