digital assets

Digital Assets – Planning for Your Estate

Many of us feel a bit freer or feel relief after we have created an estate plan. The decisions on which family members will inherit your home, artwork, and money have been decided. But the outstanding question is whether all assets have been accounted for. I am specifically talking about digital assets. Although digital assets may not be tangible, they are still assets that should be designated to loved ones. If an estate plan does not account for digital property, family may have difficulty accessing and transferring them.

*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

What Are Digital Assets?

Digital property or assets are any assets online. With the advancements in technology, more people have assets online, including email accounts, social media accounts, PayPal accounts, and much more. Below is a list of common online assets. Many of these assets should be considered when working with an estate planning attorney (It is important to note, not all digital assets are transferable upon death).

* Digital Artwork * Manuscripts
* Blogs/Websites * Digital medical records
* Copyrights * Music files
* Cryptocurrency * Photos
* Online business / personal accounts * Records stored on your computer
* Cloud-based storage accounts * Retirement accounts
* Digital commercial movies * Social Media
* Email accounts * Stock market accounts
* eBooks * Electronic subscriptions
* Home videos * Trademarks
* Intellectual property * Travel points
digital assets

Can I Just Give My Family the login to My Digital property?

The question of digital property and granting access to the property can be a touchy subject and at times a legal issue. Digital property is like a physical property because it can be passed down to whomever through an estate plan. However, the laws around digital assets are evolving, as well as the practices of social media accounts and other online platforms and search engines. Because of evolving laws, gaining access can pose challenges. There are four primary obstacles one may face when a family member dies regarding accessing their digital assets.

  1. Login Information – If family members do not know the username and password to login to a computer, smartphone, online accounts, or cloud-based storage accounts they may not be able to gain access to that property. While there are ways to gain access in some cases, others may be more difficult depending on the login process and if data is encrypted.
  2. Data Encryption – Data that is stored digitally may be encrypted. This creates a whole new set of issues regarding gaining access. Encryption can modify the data making it impossible to access without the passcode or proper credentials.
  3. Criminal Laws – Both Federal and State laws are in place prohibiting unauthorized access to computers, personal data, and online assets. These laws are focused on the prevention of identity theft and fraud. Violations of these laws can be construed as criminal acts. For more information refer to the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§2701-2712, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. §1030). Federal laws that govern unauthorized access of digital assets may also limit a fiduciary’s ability to access a decedent’s digital property as well. Even if a fiduciary has access to the username and password for an online account, he or she may not legally have the right to access the information. To help fiduciaries gain legal access to digital assets, the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) has been enacted in many states, including the state of Missouri. This act governs access to digital assets
  4. Federal Laws on Data Privacy- Most often, data privacy laws prohibit a service provider from giving access to online accounts or the contents of the accounts to any individual besides the owner. Because of this, accounts such as social media may be locked so the content cannot be accessed. Also, many service providers require the account holder sign terms of service strictly prohibiting the third party from accessing an account. The terms of service agreement may also exclude access to a fiduciary.
digital properties

Digital Properties That Cannot Be Passed on Through Your Will

Many of your digital assets cannot be passed on through a will. This may be because they have no tangible or monetary value or because the decedent doesn’t have the legal right to transfer them. Assets not transferable are usually because the user agreement prohibits the transfer of the digital property to a new owner. Most generally, the value of non-transferrable digital assets is based on sentimental value. Some examples of digital properties not transferable are the following:

  • Email accounts – While email accounts are not transferable, there are channels with most email service providers to gain access to a decedent’s accounts. One example is a Google email account. It is important to note a Google account holds more than just email. It may include documents on Google Drive, Google photos, or even funds in Google Pay. A family member can contact Google, when a loved one passes, to obtain all of the property i.e. documents, photos, funds, etc., by providing proof of death. Another option through this service provider is to use their Inactive Account Manager Tool. The owner of the account can specify what information is shared after they pass or after the account has been dormant for a specific period.ÂThis process allows an account holder to set up one or more account administrators. The last option would be to provide account information to log in to obtain the data. 
  • Social Media Accounts – Like email accounts, Social Media accounts, are not transferable. However, many Social Media platforms have options allowing one to direct what happens to the account after the death of the account-holder. One example is Facebook. A Facebook account can be deleted or can set up designating who has the right to access the account by setting up a legacy contact allowing the account to be later managed by that individual.
  • Domains – Many domain registrars and hosting companies have processes allowing a request to transfer ownership when someone dies. Each entity will have a different process however, for most they will require a copy of the beneficiary’s driver’s license as well as a copy of the death certificate.
  • Subscription accounts (such as movie streaming) – – If there are subscription accounts needing to be handled, some service providers allow them to be transferred while others simply close the accounts with proof of death. Each service provider will have their processes and request information showing the subscription owner has died.
online assets

Digital Properties That Are Allowed Transferable Through a Will

The general rule for digital assets is if they have a tangible or monetary value, they can and should be included in your estate. This allows a planner the opportunity to determine how these assets are disbursed. Some examples are as follows:

  • Bitcoin
  • Digital music files
  • Digital photos
  • Frequent flyer miles (depending on the service providers policies)
  • PayPal accounts
  • Money due to you from online stores such as Amazon and Etsy

If a beneficiary is not designated for digital properties, they will pass on to residuary beneficiaries.  This is recommended for any digital assets owned. We should all review the policies and licensing agreements to have a better understanding of what can be transferred and what the procedures are to do so.

digital property

Estate Planning for Your Digital Assets

When planning for an estate, it is important to remember the executor may need access to digital assets. This is to ensure any outstanding bills are paid and to follow instructions on the disbursement of these properties. Because of this, it is important to include the wishes for all the property, including digital data. Be sure to create a list of all digital assets and include login information and instructions in writing on how these assets are to be managed or resolved.

When working with Paths Elder Law, Kansas City Estate Planning Attorney, we understand how important it is to cover all the bases. There may be priceless photos or documents in the cloud important to the family. Our staff will work with you to ensure nothing is left out and your plan is solid. If you or a loved one are ready to get started on planning your estate, contact Paths Elder Law. We are here to provide you with peace of mind in planning for the future.

Educational Seminar at Paths Law Firm

Paths Law Firm provides a Free Educational Elder Law Seminar every month to help you plan for your future.

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan Foley at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 2018 and passed the Missouri Bar that year. Prior to law school, Ryan attended the University of Missouri – Columbia where he attained a degree in Business. He is a Kansas City native, growing up in the Northland where he achieved his Eagle Scout rank by doing a project for his high school. During his time in law school, Ryan was introduced to the practice area of Elder Law by one of his professors and has been

Ryan enjoys working with and educating clients to provide advocacy and support during the unfamiliar and often overwhelming probate process. Ryan understands the challenges faced by individuals when faced by the uncertainty and complexity of government systems or even handling a Trust during a time of grief, and he strives to make the process as easy as possible.

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

administrative assistant at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

Makaylee is currently working on her bachelor’s in political science and hopes to soon start law school as an aspiring attorney. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her friends and family but most importantly her dogs Taffyta, Tallulah Belle, and Harry. Their favorite thing to do is go on coffee dates and get pup cups.

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton, attorney at Paths Law

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

After starting her career as a disability attorney, Kathleen transitioned into estate planning at a mid-sized regional law firm. Kathleen joined Paths Law Firm in 2021 when she decided to return to a boutique law firm that provides excellent service and quality to clients. Because of her background as a disability attorney, she brings a thorough understanding of public benefits to each client meeting. At Paths Law FIrm, Kathleen focuses on traditional estate planning and business entity formation, providing tailored advice unique to each client’s situation.

Public Benefits Assistant

Tena K. Dooley

Public Benefits Assistant

Amanda D. Martin

I have my Associates in Applied Science and have over 20 years of office management experience. I have two daughters and one grandson.

During my time away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family.  I enjoy almost everything outdoors and my hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL

Sydney R. Morris

Paths Law elder law in Kansas City

PARALEGAL

Sydney

Sydney is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an accounting degree and plans to later attend law school.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her nephews and volunteering at her local church.

 

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

client service manager at Paths Law

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

Phone: 816-640-8635
Email: [email protected]

Christy has 3 years of experience in Elder Law working for seniors and their families as a Benefits Coordinator processing Medicaid and VA applications. Prior to joining Paths Law Firm Christy worked in the finance industry for over 10 years.

 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.

 

Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits

 

Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René

René has worked along side Rusty for 35 years. Not only is she part of the Paths team, she is also his wife. René spends her time working with the accountant to keep all of the finances in order, as well as general office management.

In addition to helping run the office, she helps manage the family and grandkids, tries to keep everyone fed, and has a passion to teach Bible Studies. Her former career in Event Planning trained her to juggle all the activity. She understands Rusty’s passion to serve people from the first mention of law school. It is a great pleasure for her to be an important part of every area of his life.

 

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hillary at Paths Law

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary

Hilary plays a vital role in the daily operations of the office. In addition to her regular office duties, Hilary has a heart of gold.

For more than 5 years, Hilary has operated the front desk at Paths, running the office and catering to clients. Hilary recently moved into the role of Community Relations Coordinator. She has a passion for people and a focus to share our business practices with the community’s seniors, businesses, and clients. She especially has a heart for seniors, showing they are loved through her visits, treats, the “Pen to Pal” program, and volunteering services at various senior living communities. She is a wonderful wife and mother of two. Most activities with seniors involve her great talent for any type of craft.

 

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

Jennifer, senior paralegal

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer has been in the legal field for over 25 years and considers Paths her second home.

When she’s not running the office or working for our clients, she’s spending time with her first passion – her children.

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

attorney at Paths Law elder law

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

Phone: 816-640-8635

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings nearly 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was a practicing accountant. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty decided to put his focus on helping the elderly, vulnerable adults, and their families navigate challenging life, end of life, and death events.

Rusty understands the challenges faced by individuals whose capacity is declining and how upsetting the loss of a loved one can be. He understands he may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief from loss, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind. Rusty works directly with client’s long term care issues, including Medicaid, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Special Needs Planning.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.

 

Practice Areas

 

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education

 

BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City


Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri


Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate