In 2017 Ricardo Serrano’s partner found themselves scrambling to get access to their late husband’s contacts and calendar information so they could inform his friends and family of his passing. Practically nobody maintains a physical address book, and neither did Mr. Serrano.
One of the most painfully overlooked elements of estate planning is managing the transfer of digital data and accounts. With the loss of a loved one, pictures, messages, videos, and access to hundreds of web services are often lost as well.
Six years ago, my father tragically passed away in a traffic accident and I, his then 19 year old son, was appointed as the executor of a very messy estate. I found myself unable to recuperate important documents and memories.
Our phones store some of our most meaningful moments and interactions. From photos to text messages and notes, we inadvertently document our lives on our devices. This is why Apple came out with a Legacy Contact option a few years ago.
Photo albums are a quintessential family heirloom. Large binders filled with glossy film photos sit in most people’s cosets, holding valuable memories passed from one generation to the next.
The wide gap between a digital asset clause in a planning document and a fiduciary actually accessing accounts is a necessary and often overlooked piece of a good digital estate plan.
Your client just told you “I have a cold storage device for my cryptocurrency”, what do you do? In the inevitable cycle of life and wealth, a recent reality has become clear: if living people own cryptocurrencies, so do the estates of deceased individuals.
In 2014, the Uniform Law Commission drafted UFADAA - the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. UFADAA’s goal was to aid fiduciaries in the inventory, reporting, and distribution of digital assets. Later ULC proposed a revised version of the statute, RUFADAA (Revised UFADAA.)
Hawaii launched the CIL (Digital Currency Innovation Lab) program in 2020 to pre-empt digital asset regulation in the state. The program’s uncertain renewal could pose a problem for fiduciaries who aren’t aware that the end of DCIL would lead to the closure of the grantor’s accounts.
Crypto regulation is difficult and contentious. The SEC has been wrestling with crypto entities for a long time, but other regulators have also set up hoops on centralized crypto companies in an attempt to protect consumers.
RUFADAA, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, has been enacted in most states as a measure to support the passing on of digital assets as part of an estate. Digital assets are difficult to pass on for a plethora of reasons.
Cryptocurrencies are an important emerging asset class, however most legal and financial professionals don’t know enough about these assets to answer client’s questions meaningfully.