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Digital assets and probate in California

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Estate Administration

In the modern age, managing digital assets is a crucial aspect of estate planning and probate. Understanding how to handle digital assets during the probate process in California can help ensure that you properly manage and transfer them.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets include a variety of electronic properties and rights such as email, social media, and cloud storage accounts. Cryptocurrencies and online banking accounts fall under this umbrella. These assets also include digital media like photos, videos, and digital music libraries.

Challenges in probate

Probate involves the legal process of distributing a deceased person’s assets, but digital assets pose unique challenges. Executors may face difficulties accessing online accounts without proper authorization or passwords. Identifying all digital assets can be challenging, especially if they are not documented in the estate plan. Legal restrictions, such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, can limit access to digital assets without explicit permission.

Steps to manage digital assets

To ensure digital assets are properly handled in probate, create a detailed inventory of all digital assets, including account information and access credentials. Include specific instructions and authorizations in your will or trust to grant executors access to digital assets. Keep the inventory and authorizations up to date as you acquire new digital assets or change passwords.

Digital assets in modern estate planning

Probate law and estate planning evolve with technology. All modern estate planning should include digital assets to avoid probate disputes. The first step in protecting your digital assets is understanding how to do so.