In California, your digital assets will die with you unless you make other arrangements through an estate plan. By creating a will, you can get around current state law that doesn’t allow anyone access to your digital assets.
What Happens to My Digital Assets When I Die?
California law does not provide anyone, including the executor named in your will, authority to access your digital assets. Only an estate plan will allow the digital records you own and control to be passed on after your death.
Without estate planning, your email and social media accounts, websites, blogs, and digital files can continue to exist. But, no one will be able to access, use, change, or delete them.
Digital accounts will remain untouched until the company you opened the account with deletes it. This is often because of the “terms of service” that you agree to when you created the account. They often limit access to you alone and provide the company the right to terminate your account when you die.
What If I Want Someone to Access My Digital Assets?
Without an estate plan, all your digital assets will be lost after your death. If you want your digital assets handled in a certain way, a digital assets estate planning attorney can help.
You’ll need to leave clear instructions for your executor on how to access your accounts and files. List the accounts and files you want accessed with usernames and passwords. And guide them on what to do with them.
This can be part of your will or take the form of a letter to be opened when you die. Whatever you do, make sure your executor knows where to find it and update it regularly.
What If I Don’t Want Anyone to Access My Digital Assets?
If you want your digital assets to die with you, you should still take steps to plan your estate accordingly. You may have good reason for keeping your digital assets as private after death as they were in life. Keeping digital accounts and files private could protect you and others from unnecessary embarrassment or hardship.
The simplest way to keep your digital assets private after you die is to keep anyone from accessing them. Count on California law to keep everyone out of your digital life. Ensure your usernames, passwords, and security questions can’t be guessed.
However, you should not rely on the law to protect your digital assets for long. California law will very likely change. It could follow what other states have done by providing executors wide-ranging access to the deceased’s accounts and files. In the future, your digital assets could be viewed similarly to physical possession. This would make all your digital assets part of your estate available for distribution to your heirs.
The best way to way to limit access to your digital accounts and files after death is to leave clear instructions. This could take the form of a provision in your will or a letter to be found after you die. With proper estate planning, you can tell your executor which assets to touch and which to leave alone.
What You Should Do Regardless of Whether You Want to Keep Your Digital Assets Private
Regardless of what you want to do with your digital assets after death, you’re going to need a plan. California law could change in the near future. Plus, your executor may need access to your digital accounts after you die to wrap up your financial affairs.
To kick off your estate planning, your priority should be to hire an experienced attorney. A Palmdale CA estate planning lawyer can help you craft a plan for all your assets, digital and physical. As part of this work, they will draft your will or a separate letter to protect your digital assets. An attorney can also set up a trust that appoints someone you trust to keep your assets safe for you.
Contact the Herbert Law Office to Learn More About Digital Assets Estate Planning
To take control over the fate of your digital assets after you die, contact a Palmdale CA estate planning attorney. At Herbert Law Office, we can help you plan ahead to protect your most valued assets.