Attorney Tim Dunn Says Digital Assets after Death Should Be Addressed in Estate Planning Process
As our culture continues to turn towards a technological, paperless lifestyle, it is important to address digital assets during the estate planning process. Firm partner Timothy W. Dunn addressed the complicated issues surrounding the transfer and ownership of digital assets after death in a recent interview with WKYT-TV.
During his exclusive interview with WKYT reporter Miranda Combs, Dunn explained why having a plan for dealing with digital assets after death is important. "[It’s the] assets that have the sentimental value that take the most work to get those disputes resolved. A lot of my clients have started to identify the issues that are there, like what happens to these accounts whenever I pass away," he said.
Interestingly, a password manager has become a solution for many with multiple online accounts according to WKYT-TV. A password manager allows a person to pass their passwords to whomever they like, but Dunn says that using another person’s passwords to log in to their accounts is generally not permissible for a couple of reasons. First, he explained that there is a provision in the user agreements related to most social media and online storage sites that prohibits the user from transferring the account to someone else, meaning you aren't supposed to give out your passwords to anyone.
Dunn went on to explain that there are also federal laws which make it a criminal act to use another person’s account information to log on to their digital accounts. "So that stops it right there," he said. Dunn stated that these laws make the most common solution to dealing with digital assets, “someone else using your account, using the information you set aside to access your account, a criminal offense."
In an effort to get around these issues, Dunn began including in new Wills language which expressly authorizes the executor to manage online accounts and other digital assets.
"Adding that language . . . potentially gives the fiduciary some type of standing to act, if at all possible, if the user isn't able to do so," he said. But, Dunn knows that this manner of dealing with these issues is not ideal.
"[T]he solution is really a legislative solution," he said.