What’s the saying? “‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,”1
Though we do often talk of taxes as invaluable records, this post addresses the concept of death and whether or not you have addressed what becomes of your social media accounts, emails, cloud-based content, ebooks, digital music, web-based family trees, DNA test results, and much more?
Let’s face it – we will all die and we do want to ensure that all that we’ve accumulated digitally will survive us and be available to our descendants.
Earlier this year, Dick Eastman posted Michigan Defines Who Owns Digital Assets After Death which led me to the website Everplans.com which has an incredibly useful page, State-by-State Digital Estate Planning Laws. As of this writing, only “19 states have stepped in to create laws that will protect people's digital assets and give the person's family the right to access and manage those accounts after the owner has died.”
The Uniform Law Commission is tracking the implementation of the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised (2015) which shows the 19 states which have enacted such legislation and 12 additional states which have introduced the legislation.
This act extends the traditional power of a fiduciary to manage tangible property to include management of a person’s digital assets. The act allows fiduciaries to manage digital property like computer files, web domains, and virtual currency, but restricts a fiduciary’s access to electronic communications such as email, text messages, and social media accounts unless the original user consented in a will, trust, power of attorney, or other record.
Check the applicable laws for the state in which you live. You might need to provide explicit instructions in your will. Many often provide their usernames and passwords to loved ones in advance to provide unfettered access. Again, check the applicable laws for the state in which you live and the user agreements of the relevant service providers.
You’d hate to see your hard genealogical work “frozen” in a form of legal limbo. Plan now for the inevitable!
What steps have you taken to ensure that your family history research related files are properly managed upon your death?
1 Death and taxes (idiom)
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