In past generations, family members, fiduciaries and other individuals often had to scour through safe-deposit boxes, desks and boxes to gather documents and photos left behind by a loved one. As our culture continues to move further away from paper toward a paperless society, more and more assets and memories are stored in the cloud. Our digital lifestyle has made it vital for individuals to address digital assets in estate planning documents, such as a will and powers of attorney.
Michigan Law Allows You To Define Access To Your Digital Afterlife
Many digital accounts hold assets that may be sentimental in nature, or financially important. In this digital age, Michigan law provides authority under the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FADAA). Estate planning attorney Howard H. Collens recently appeared on WXYZ-TV in Detroit to discuss how individuals can address their digital legacies should they become incapacitated or pass away.
Online tools and digital custodians often have a great amount of power to deny requests for access to email accounts, social media resources - such as Facebook and LinkedIn - and even financial accounts that may hold significant assets. Some people may ask why it would matter what happens to many digital assets. An email account may not seem like it would have significant value. However, as the WXYZ report highlights, for many, email communications may include a string of sentimental thoughts and the last words of a person before he or she dies.
You Can Control The Scope Of Access To Digital Assets
On the flip side, email accounts and other digital resources stored in the cloud may include information that you do not want others to see after you are gone. The FADAA allows you to designate who may have access to control an email account or other digital asset, should you pass away or become unable to manage your own affairs.
In addition to granting a fiduciary access to an account, you can designate the scope of that access. Options to consider here are whether you want to grant access to everything, portions of your digital estate, or whether you prefer to have some or all of your digital assets to be deleted. Without proper documentation, the digital custodians retain control of your digital afterlife.
Thoroughly addressing digital assets in an estate plan serves important functions. As digital legacies grow each year in today's electronic and internet age, a detailed plan can provide you with peace of mind. Far too many legal disputes can arise, costing surviving loved-ones to litigate to gain access to digital assets for a wide variety of reasons. A detailed plan in a will and/or powers of attorney can help ensure that your digital assets are handled properly and according to your true desires should the unexpected occur.