Access To Digital Assets
Many of us are using online accounts to some degree: to manage finances, correspondence, or social interactions, all with the storage of their personal information. Sometimes the information is stored on our own personal devices, such as a laptop or smart phone. Other times, the information may be stored in the cloud or on the social network's own servers. While the concept of digital assets is constantly growing as technology advances, the most common forms of digital assets are our digital photographs, emails, and social media accounts. The inability to access such records could be a huge sentimental loss for a family. For those of us who own a business, the inability to access digital access could have a severe financial impact if a trusted family member or agent cannot open or use work email or other important records in the event of the disability or death of the person holding the passwords.
What Did You Accept, When You Clicked "ACCEPT"?
The New Maryland Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act To The Rescue
Fortunately for Maryland residents, the newly passed Maryland Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (MFADAA), effective as of October 1, 2016, provides answers. It allows you to grant to your Fiduciaries (either your Personal Representative upon your death, your Trustee under a trust agreement, your Agent through your durable power of attorney, or a court appointed Guardian) the specific right to access your digital assets. The MFADAA is designed to bridge the gap between the terms of service agreements and other privacy laws and the practical aspects of what most users want, or even expect. However, in order to take full advantage of the MFADAA you must specifically grant your Fiduciaries certain powers within your estate planning documents.
Use It Or Lose It
The bottom line? Even with this new Maryland law, if your estate documents are silent regarding digital access, your Fiduciaries may have limited or no authority to access your digital assets. It is important for Maryland residents to review and update their estate plans to take advantage these new rights. Call to action: contact an experienced Maryland estate planning lawyer soon to learn more about how your estate planning documents can be tailored to take advantage of this valuable new legal development.