Digital Assets and Your Estate

Guess what?  Digital assets are now part of your estate!  This means that your email, social media, blogs, photo or video sharing accounts, online storage, domain names, and anything else that you own in the “cloud” can be accessed as part of your estate.  But there’s a catch.  If you haven’t granted this authority in your estate planning documents, anyone who accesses your accounts could be committing a criminal act.

Maryland recently took a great step forward in passing the Maryland Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective as of October 1, 2016.  This “Digital Assets Act” allows individuals to authorize their trusted agents to access their digital assets upon becoming incapacitated or dying.  Trusted agents include agents under a general power of attorney, trustees of a trust, and personal representatives under a Will.  Prior to the Digital Assets Act, there was no guarantee your agents would be able to deal with your digital assets – it was actually a violation of the federal privacy laws for your agent to access your digital accounts, even if allowing access was your intent!

To take advantage of the new law, estate planning documents should be updated to allow your agents to manage your accounts.  It’s equally important to prepare an inventory of your digital assets, so that your agents know what type of digital assets you have, how to access those assets, and what you want done with those assets upon your incapacity or death. 

Jennifer McManus is an attorney with the Estate Planning practice group at Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny, LLC. For questions about this article or other questions about estate planning documents, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer McManus at 410.995.5800 or via email.