As one of the top estate-planning law firms in the Dallas area, we see many of the newer situations on a daily basis. One of the newest is the issue of digital assets. In some cases, the deceased may have left passwords, but in others, he or she did not. Gaining legal access to digital assets is a new area in the law. In this blog post, one of our top estate planning attorneys gives tips on how to plan ahead with respect to digital assets and estates. If you live anywhere in Texas – from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio- preparing for the digital age is a ‘new must’ in estate planning.
~ Editor’s Note
Estate Planning with Digital Assets
How many of us give anyone else access to our online accounts along with information about more conventional assets? It is a subject planners and lawmakers consider with greater frequency. Although Texas has not, some states have enacted laws giving personal representatives of estates access to digital accounts of someone who passed away or who is no longer able to manage his or her own assets. Given the widespread dependence of most of us on digital accounts as many of us have gone or are going paperless, it is vital that personal representatives have access to these accounts.
Most online service providers require a user to accept terms of service stating that accounts are not transferable and that access to the service will not be available to anyone other than the user who initially signed up. Because there are very few court cases dealing with issues with digital assets, the best we can do for now is to plan, through a will, power of attorney, or otherwise. In your power of attorney, you can specifically direct your agent to access and control your online accounts. Your will can contain provisions that allow your executor to access your digital assets. It is not clear whether a court will enforce those provisions, but it certainly can be only helpful to give your agent and personal representative such powers.
Of course, the most foolproof method of allowing trusted individuals access to your online accounts is to leave a list of your login information and passwords with your other valuable information. There are some drawbacks, including possible lack of security and the fact that, for some accounts, we are required to change passwords regularly. Until legislation and service agreements catch up, planning is the best approach.
Editor’s Summary: Estate Planning with Digital Assets ~ Dallas, Texas
If you are dealing with estate planning issues in Texas, or if perhaps you’re involved in possible litigation concerning an estate or trust, reach out to one of our top Dallas estate attorneys for an initial phone consultation. Indeed, if the situation involves digital assets such as bank or investment accounts, we can advise you on the legal methods to secure control of assets. In addition, if you are considering disputing an estate or trust in Texas, we can advise you on how to protect your rights whether or not formal litigation commences.