In today’s technology-driven world, many assets are stored digitally via a personal computer or online account. Assets that are stored in this manner generally may be accessed only by entering a username and password unique to each account. Because these assets often have great monetary or sentimental value, it is important to have a plan that addresses who can access these assets and how they do so.
1. What is a digital asset? A digital asset is any file that is stored in a computer or other electronic device such as a desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile telephone, smartphone, or in the cloud, or, any file or account that can be accessed online by logging into a specific account, such as a bank account, email account, or social media account.
2. How do I designate the individuals who will have access to my digital assets? In Connecticut, the executor of your Will or administrator of your estate is granted express authority to access your email accounts. However, social media accounts and other types of accounts are not included. Thus, you should name a digital executor in your Will who will manage your digital assets in the event of your death. (See Public Act No. 05-136, below)
3. Who should I choose as my digital executor? The digital executor can be the same person who acts as your executor or can be a different individual who is limited strictly to managing your digital assets. Most often, individuals designate a family member or close friend as their digital executor. Since digital assets can have immense monetary or sentimental value, make sure you choose someone trustworthy and with whom you feel comfortable granting access to your personal information.
4. What other steps can I take to preserve my digital assets? In addition to naming a digital executor in your Will, you should create a Power of Attorney document that grants a person of your choosing the authority to manage your digital assets in the event that you are living but become incapacitated and cannot access the asset yourself.
5. What can I do right now to allow my loved ones to easily access my digital access after my death? You may consider writing down account names, usernames, and access information and keeping it in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box, and inform a trusted individual of its location. If your computer is password protected, you should include that password as well.
6. I don’t feel comfortable writing down all my account information on paper because I’m afraid someone might steal it. Do I have any other options? There are internet-based companies such as SecureSafe and Legacy Locker that specialize in safely storing this kind of digital asset information. You may consider using one of these resources if you wish to ensure the highest level of security in your digital assets.
For advice regarding planning for digital assets as it pertains to your specific circumstances, please contact the office. We would be glad to meet with you, without charge, to discuss your specific concerns.
Public Act No. 05-136
AN ACT CONCERNING ACCESS TO DECEDENTS’ ELECTRONIC MAIL ACCOUNTS.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2005) (a) For the purposes of this section:
(1) “Electronic mail service provider” means any person who (A) is an intermediary in sending or receiving electronic mail, and (B) provides to end-users of electronic mail services the ability to send or receive electronic mail; and
(2) “Electronic mail account” means: (A) All electronic mail sent or received by an end-user of electronic mail services provided by an electronic mail service provider that is stored or recorded by such electronic mail service provider in the regular course of providing such services; and (B) any other electronic information stored or recorded by such electronic mail service provider that is directly related to the electronic mail services provided to such enduser by such electronic mail service provider, including, but not limited to, billing and payment information.
(b) An electronic mail service provider shall provide, to the executor or administrator of the estate of a deceased person who was domiciled in this state at the time of his or her death, access to or copies of the contents of the electronic mail account of such deceased person upon receipt by the electronic mail service provider of: (1) A written request for such access or copies made by such executor or administrator, accompanied by a copy of the death certificate and a certified copy of the certificate of appointment as executor or administrator; or (2) an order of the court of probate that by law has jurisdiction of the estate of such deceased person.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require an electronic mail service provider to disclose any information in violation of any applicable federal law.