Disposition Of Digital Assets At Death Presents A New Challenge For Financial Professionals; Uniform Law Commission Is Developing Model Legislation For Fiduciaries

As an example of the issues financial planning practitioners must be prepared to deal with, Rothschild said that even if an individual has a decedent’s user name and password, a user agreement from could make it a criminal offense to log into the account. Meanwhile, Yahoo!’s user agreement, Rothschild says, allows deletion of an account upon presentation of a death certificate.


"Only with proper planning can we avoid disclosing secrets people want to maintain," Rothschild said.


Rothschild's remarks serve as a cautionary tale to fiduciaries, who are facing new professional responsibilities because digital assets have proliferated over the last decade as social media popularized Internet usage.

An executor of a will who logs into a decedent’s online accounts could be prosecuted criminally under the federal computer fraud and abuse law, Rothschild said, alluding to cases in which Facebook and Match.com’s user agreements were violated.
Eight states have adopted their own law on the disposition of digital assets, and the Uniform Law Commission is drafting model legislation for states to consider adopting, Rothschild said. The Commission is specifically focused on drafting a model law for states that will vest fiduciaries with at least the authority to manage and distribute digital assets, copy or delete digital assets, and access digital assets.


The disposition of digital assets was one of four topics Rothschild taught advisors about at Friday’s A4A webinar. Rothschild also spoke about:
  • last-minute tips about year-end estate planning that financial advisors should be speaking about with clients and communicating over social media about right now.
  • DINGs, NINGs, and WINGs, which are non-grantor trusts that have become a timely topic because of a recent IRS private letter ruling (PLR 201310002).
  • practical considerations for financial planning practitioners in addressing portability of a deceased spouse’s estate tax exclusion.
You can see a replay of Rothschild's webinar and get CFP, CPA, CIMA, CIMC, CPWA continuing professional education credit on our weekly webinars for financial fiduciaries, if you are an Advisors4Advisors member ($60 a year).
A4A members can also download a free Digital Asset Inventory Questionnaire to begin to assist clients with planning the disposition of their digital assets upon death. If you're logged into A4A, click on the "View Public Profile" and then on the tab for "Rewards." Click on Premium Content link in red to get download the questionnaire. 
Rothschild, who has agreed to speak quarterly at A4A webinars, received a very high rating from attendees of 4.7 and their reviews are below:
  • Excellent estate planning overview
  • Great particularly on the digital assets
  • Very nice presentation by the speaker and his legal analysis is solid and makes sense. I think some of the material covered may be beyond the scope of a smaller advisor practice, but it's better to present more rather than less as it challenges the listener/viewer of the webcast to learn and understand new concepts and ideas.
  • Very good although some of the strategies were very specific for a small number of clients--although things he probably deals with every day.
  • Excellent overview of recent estate planning changes. Especially likes the Digital Assets ideas - which I will now share with my clients. The portability pros + cons were nicely laid out - again - very useful to share with clients. Please invite Gideon back soon - to delve into more depth various estate planning ideas. Would especially like hearing more about DINGS + how to better apply them to client situations.
  • Lots of great info-hadn't thought about the digital stuff.
  • Very good.
  • Excellent!
  • Best seen to date.
  • Well done & digital storage questionnaire will be helpful
  • Wow! Great presentation. Thank you for bringing Gideon to speak to us. I would like to have him come back to talk about asset protection.
  • Very good...
  • Excellent review of digital assets and what should be done with them
  • The information was good overall. A portion wasn't relative to my particular clientele, but I appreciated getting an update of the information nonetheless.
  • Good stuff
  • Excellent
  • Some good nuggets of information. Presenter covered a lot of detail that will be difficult to remember, but not sure how you get around that with this topic.
  • The section on digital assets made it well worth attending today's session. Valuable information. Things most people have not thought about.


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