We live in a world where almost every person owns digital valuables. In the past, movies, music, bills, receipts, photos, and other documents were commonly held in physical form. In the event of the death of the original owner, these items were inherited by the beneficiary.
However, with rapid tech advances, many of us prefer virtual assets. While digital movies and music have many advantages, passing on these virtual assets is complicated as not every state has adopted laws addressing access to virtual assets when a user passes away.
Most of the decisions regarding virtual inheritance are based on related laws or the terms and conditions of the digital asset provider. In today’s spotlight, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the inheritance of virtual assets in Florida.
Definition of Virtual Assets
Virtual assets include documents, photos, movies, and other things in digital format that have an economic or sentimental value. Email accounts, websites, social media accounts are also considered virtual assets, as well as licenses of software and games. Frequent flyer miles with airlines are also digital assets.
In today’s digital economy, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, and Tether all too, are considered digital assets and should be included in a comprehensive estate evaluation. If you happen to be a YouTube influencer, this is a valuable digital asset that also should be addressed by an experienced and up-to-date estate planner.
Inheritance of the virtual assets can create a lot of confusion among beneficiaries about their legal rights.
Virtual Assets in Legal Context
In the legal context, there is a big difference between the right to use and the ownership of assets. This includes virtual assets. In this context, an heir only has rights over the virtual assets that were owned by the deceased person. Digital estate includes data that the deceased person has in the cloud or on their personal computer.
The US Uniform Law Commission Act allows the deceased person’s close relatives or executor the right to manage and access their virtual assets. This law states that the personal representative of the deceased person can access the digital assets by obtaining probate or the grant of power from the court.
In 2016, Florida enacted the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (see Florida Statute Title XLII, Chapter 740). The Act helps address access to various digital assets like email and social media accounts, blogs, websites, and other electronically-stored media.
The powers to manage a deceased person’s digital assets are limited by the will and intent of the user. The in-service choice of the user will take preference over the provision of the will. For instance, if the user has mentioned in their digital account settings how access to virtual assets will be granted, the user’s intent overrides anything written in the deceased person’s will.
How to Pass on Virtual Assets to Beneficiaries?
Popular social media platforms such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook allow users to specify who will inherit the account in the event of the account owner’s death. It’s important to understand the differences between different platforms.
Using the legacy contact feature of Facebook, users can choose choose a person to manage their account after their death. However, the appointed contact has limited control. They can only announce the death of the account holder and change the cover photo, as well as some profile information. The legacy contact cannot add or remove posts or images on the account of the deceased person.
Google also has a feature known as an inactive account manager. This allows a user to nominate up to 10 trusted contacts. The user can specify what data will be shared with the trusted person, such as photos, documents in Google Drive, and other data. Google will notify the trusted persons in case of no account activity between 3 to 18 months, as specified by the user.
Twitter does not give many options to the legal heirs of the deceased person. User accounts can be deactivated by heirs. However, they cannot tweet on the account. In addition, heirs cannot change the profile.
Frequent Flyer Miles
Airlines like Delta, JetBlue, and Emirates allow close relatives of a dead person to inherit the frequent flyer miles. Southwest also allows the dead person’s relatives to inherit miles to their account. But they must use the frequent miles within two years of the death of a close relative.
No laws are available that enforce the transfer of frequent flyer miles of other airlines. The companies can forfeit the assets after the miles’ owner dies.
Online Password Management Services
Many online services (DigiPulse and SecureSafe) allow users to save multiple accounts and passwords. These paid online services allow users to pass on virtual assets to their heirs. But legal heirs have to submit a death certificate and give two references to verify the death of the account holder to gain legal ownership of the virtual assets.
Virtual Asset and Estate Evaluation
Virtual asset inheritance in Florida can be fairly complex, which is why having an experienced estate planning attorney is key to understanding all your options and the best path for your unique situation. Contact us today for a personalized plan, including expert legal advice about virtual asset transfer.