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What is Digital Probate?

Superior Client Service

For the longest time, assets and their records used to all be physical, collected in stacks of mail, file cabinets full of paperwork, and other organizational methods. In the modern age, though, everything is being turned on its head as technology advances. More often than not, critical information is stored digitally, including anything pertinent to a will or trust, and sent through emails.

Beyond transcripts and spreadsheets communicated regularly through emails, digital assets also frequently exist as:

  • Memberships with point accruals and awards.
  • Online subscriptions with existing, regular charges.
  • Picture databases with sentimental value.

The problem that modern families are facing when either creating or reviewing an estate plan in probate is that emails controlled by the decedent are extremely difficult to access. Server controllers may outright deny you access, even if you can prove that it is for the benefit of someone’s estate who has passed away. What’s worse, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act could see your snooping as grounds for a felony violation.

How Can Digital Assets Be Managed?

The personal representative – what an executor is called in Florida – of the decedent has an appointed duty to collect and manage finances and accounts. Just because they are created digitally doesn’t mean they can ignore them. To keep your personal representative’s hands from being tied and causing them worlds of complications, you should take the initiative now to leave clear instructions in your estate plan on how to access each digital account you have. If you are worried about some of the personal information stored within, you can leave explicit instructions as to how to handle each account. For example, you can tell them your username and password for your Facebook page and allow them to access your wall posts that discuss your estate but tell them to respectfully not peruse your photos.

At the time of this blog’s creation, Florida State is considering adopting the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA), which would give executors access to digital assets of the decedent. This could smooth things over and free wills caught in probate due to digital assets, or it could create disputes over privacy. Due to the unknowns and arguments on both sides of the issue, the legislation has not yet been finalized.

Do you need help with finalizing a will or trust that deals with digital assets? Are you not even sure how many digital assets you actually have? Contact Your Advocates! Our Fort Myers attorneys can help you draft a portion of your estate plan that sorts out your digital assets exactly to your wishes. Call 239.970.6844 today for more information.

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