Español Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube, Yahoo, Gmail, icloud – all but only some of the platforms and tools that connect us with our loved ones through technology. There is no doubt we are living the Digital Age. Have you ever wondered what happens to your accounts created within these platforms after your passing? In the Virgin Islands, Family Caregivers who lost their loved one have struggled to obtain access to these accounts because once the owner of the accounts was pronounced deceased, the rights of ownership were maintained by these companies. But not anymore. On January 12, 2018, Bill Number 32-1032, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act also known as RUFADAA was signed by Acting Governor Osbert Potter into law.
RUFADAA modernizes the fiduciary law for the internet age. Fiduciaries are the people appointed to manage our property when we die or lose the capacity to manage it ourselves. Nearly everyone today has digital assets, such as documents, photographs, email and social media accounts. Fiduciaries are often prevented from accessing those accounts by password protection or restrictive terms of service. Digital assets may have real value, both monetary and sentimental, but they also present novel privacy concerns. This act provides legal authority for fiduciaries to manage digital assets in accordance with the user’s estate plan, while protecting a user’s private communications from unwarranted exposure.
The Uniform Law Commission Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act Summary states that RUFADAA addresses four common types of fiduciaries:
- Executors and administrators of deceased persons’ estates;
- Court appointed guardians or conservators of protected persons’ estates;
- Agents appointed under powers of attorney; and
It also states that RUFADAA also provides a three tier system of priorities in the event of conflicting instructions.
- If the custodian provides an online tool, separate from the general terms of service, that allows the user to name another person to have access to the user’s digital assets or to direct the custodian to delete the user’s digital assets, Revised UFADAA makes the user’s online instructions legally enforceable.
- If the custodian does not provide an online planning option, or if the user declines to use the online tool provided, the user may give legally enforceable directions for the disposition of digital assets in a will, trust, power of attorney, or other written record.
- If the user has not provided any direction, either online or in a traditional estate plan, the terms of service for the user’s account will determine whether a fiduciary may access the user’s digital assets. If the terms of service do not address fiduciary access, the default rules of Revised UFADAA will apply.
Today, in the Virgin Islands, especially if you are a Caregiver, you are able to have access to your loved ones digital assets with RUFADAA in place. As the owner or user of the assets be sure to plan early and clearly state who will manage and have access to your digital assets once you are deceased. As a Caregiver or family member, be sure to inform your loved ones that you or someone they choose can be named the fiduciary of their digital assets so once they are deceased that person can manage them. It is peace of mind for everyone and provides the ease to access those valuable assets, and even those cherished memories that mean so much.
To find out more on how to gain access to digital assets and for more information about RUFADAA also see the Uniform Law Commission at uniformlaws.org or aarp.org/vi.