In today’s age, our phones and devices are very important to us. They go everywhere with us. They are embedded into our house and office systems. For some, panic ensues if they are not within arms’ reach. The little computer in our pocket stores our contacts, bank account information, photos, social media accounts, email messages, and much more. It would be a shame to overlook the substantial amount of information and data involving the digital assets on your device when preparing your estate plan. If a phone owner passes away, the information and data sitting on that phone would not only be useful in wrapping up the owner’s affairs but may pose an issue if no one has access to it.
Digital assets have been the impotence for change in estate planning law over the last decade. The state of Ohio passed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) in 2017. Many other states have passed some version of this statute that gives certain persons the right to access, manage, and distribute a deceased individual’s digital assets after they pass away, including executors, administrators, and trustees. For more information on the RUFADAA, read out prior post on the subject. The downside to RUFADAA is that it applies to fiduciaries, such as appointed executors and trustees. If a decedent does not have a trust or a probate estate, the statute does not give someone the authority to access digital assets. The new concept of legacy contacts fills this gap.
A legacy contact is someone chosen by the owner to manage a particular account or device after the owner passes away. For example, a legacy contact can be named for social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram. A legacy contact can also be named for Google or Apple devices. Legacy contacts do not have access to the account or device during the owner’s lifetime. When the owner passes away, the legacy contact must prove the owner’s death.
Each account or device has its own instructions and requirements for naming a legacy contact, but the investigation is worth it. Use of the legacy contact feature for your accounts and devices will allow someone to access those things without court involvement. It minimizes the need for a probate administration, which, for most people, should be avoided. Read more about why you should gear your estate plan to avoid probate here. With a little planning, your estate can pass smoothly and that can include your accounts and devices.