What Happens to Your Digital Assets When Something Happens to You?
I’m so grateful Angela invited me to be a guest on the Life Planning 101 podcast. In this week’s episode, we talked about how technology — which makes our daily lives easier — has the potential to make things incredibly challenging for our loved ones, should something ever happen to us.
One of the topics we touched on at the end of the episode was RUFADAA [roo-fa-da]. RUFADAA stands for the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.
Have you heard of it? I’ll bet you a dollar you haven’t.
Yet, it’s vital for you to be aware that this law exists and how it may impact you and your loved ones.
What is RUFADAA?
Simply put, RUFADAA established a three-tier hierarchy on how digital accounts and digital assets are handled from a legal perspective, should we not be able or available to access them. It provides a framework that standardizes how online accounts are treated across the states.
The hierarchy is as follows:
- If an online service provider provides a means for you to specify who you want to have access to the account, that is what will legally be followed.
- In the absence of that designation, the law will look at your estate documents. Your documents will be reviewed to determine if you’ve legally named a digital executor, included a digital management plan and/or explicitly named a person to be in charge of a specific digital account.
- If neither of these conditions are satisfied, RUFADAA states the individual provider’s terms of service for the online provider will be followed.
Why should we care about RUFADAA?
While estate attorneys are now recommending their clients name a digital executor and/or include a digital management plan in their estate documents, most of us don’t have this kind of language in our legal documents today. Why? Because we don’t update our wills until we go through a major life event — like becoming a spouse or a parent, when our children become of age or receiving a life-changing medical diagnosis.
What can we do?
The good news is that four popular platforms today provide a feature for us to specify who we want to have access to our account should we become incapacitated. They are: Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, and Google. (note: the hyperlinks will take you to how-to videos Kate created on how to find the feature; she also explains what the various settings mean)
Why should we take action?
If we don’t use a tool provided by companies to let them know who we want to have access to our accounts — and all of its data — the law will examine our legal documentation for instructions.
And I don’t know many people today who’s will contains instructions on how they want their digital assets treated.
So that means those terms of service agreements that we agree to and never read will prevail and, let’s face it, those policies weren’t written to favor us or our loved ones.
The next time you meet with your estate attorney, I hope you’ll ask them about RUFADAA so you can take the action you need to live your life on purpose.
About the author
Kate Hufnagel, aka The Digital Wrangler™, is an estate and digital organizer who is on a mission to make it fun to talk about getting our affairs in order. She educates individuals and families on what makes up modern-day estates, how technology is a complexity multiplier and how laws and privacy policies work against us after we’ve passed. After spending most of her 25-year career in the national security community, Kate now applies her high-tech know-how to helping people leave behind their greatest legacy: a well-organized estate. You can find Kate on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.