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.

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Community Relations

Jeane M. Fracassa

Community Relations

Jeane M. Fracassa

Jeane Fracassa – a dedicated and accomplished professional who retired with an impressive 38-year service record from the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Throughout her illustrious career, Jeane served as a Civian Supervisor in the Communications Unit, where she played a pivotal role in ensuring efficient and effective communication within the department.

Even in retirement, Jeane’s commitment to community service remains unwavering. Currently, she serves in various capacities within Community Relations at Paths Law Firm. Actively engaged in the Lee’s Summit and Overland Park communities, she proudly represents the law firm.

In all aspects of her life, Jeane Fracassa exemplifies the values of community, compassion, and family. Her commitment to making a difference and her love for exploration make her a remarkable individual, whose presence brightens the lives of those she encounters. Whether at work, with family, or during her travels, Jeane’s genuine care for others and her zest for life make her a truly remarkable and inspiring person.

Administrative Assistant

Laura E. Messer

Administrative Assistant

Laura E. Messer

Laura is the Law Firm’s marketing assistant, supporting all marketing tasks, including managing calendars, researching upcoming events, updating marketing software and spreadsheets, and partnering with organizations to maintain relationships that benefit Paths Law Firm’s clients.  Laura is also the law firm’s professional photographer as she provides the professional photographs for the headshots, organizations, events, and networking.

Laura has over 10 years of experience as a professional photographer.  She is also Adobe and Microsoft Certified.  She graduated from Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri with her Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude, in Behavioral Psychology (minors in Social Work and Criminal Justice), and her Photographic Craftsman degree from Professional Photographers of America. She is certified as a Qualified Mental Health Professional, Certified Gentle Teacher, Medicaid Billing Certified, Crisis Intervention Counselor, and a Missouri Notary.

Laura has been married more than 26 years and has a daughter and a son. She has four brothers, a niece, and a nephew. Her four spoiled pets that love her attention. A lot of Laura’s off time is spent taking photos and she is an internationally published photographer. Laura owns a studio on the historic Independence Square. 

Administrative Assistant

Holly D. Bramble

Administrative Assistant

Holly D. Bramble

Holly is our newest member of the administrative team. She is hardworking, has proven organizational skills and excellent communication skills. Holly has transitioned to the Estate Planning field from healthcare administration where she gained valuable knowledge that has contributed to her success here at Paths.

Holly enjoys spending time with loved ones, cheering for the Chiefs, and relaxing on the beach.

Administrative Assistant

Tressa L. Purdy

Administrative Assistant

Tressa L. Purdy

Tressa has the important role of being a client’s initial point of contact as the law firm’s receptionist for all locations.  She also welcomes, assists, and cares for clients at the Lee’s Summit office. Additionally, she provides support in an administrative capacity for the attorneys, staff, and clients.  When you meet Tressa, the first quality many note is her readiness to be of assistance.

 

Tressa is a graduate of Park Hill High School with extensive administrative experience and executive level management. Tressa brings a stability and comfort to the law firm experience having worked in a variety of industries and having lived in six different major metropolitan cities.

 

Tressa has a daughter, two sons, and one grandchild.  In her free time, she enjoys her family and friends, loves being outdoors, gardening, bike riding and bird watching. Indoor hobbies include scrapbooking, painting cookies, and cheering on Chiefs football. She is a Kansas City native but enjoys traveling but is always happy to be back in her hometown.  

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton is an attorney and owner at Paths Law Firm. She has more than 17 years of experience advocating for those with special needs and navigating the state and federal agencies formed to help the disabled and elderly. At Paths Law Firm, Kathleen’s practice focuses on helping the elderly qualify for nursing home Medicaid, creating estate plans to protect beneficiaries, as well as a lot of time planning and forming businesses. Kathleen also enjoys helping clients form non-profit organizations and obtain 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

 

After attending law school at the University of Oklahoma, Kathleen began representing clients before the Social Security Administration. Eventually her practice switched to federal court appeals and Kathleen spent years representing clients before the Eastern and Western District of Missouri, the District of Kansas, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kathleen has since focused her practice on estate planning and elder law after watching clients struggle to find ways to financially care for loved ones with special needs or aging parents.

 

Kathleen lives in the Northland with her husband and four children. She spends her free time attending soccer matches and ballet performances with her children and starting endless home improvement projects with her husband. 

Medicaid paralegal

Tena K. Dooley

Medicaid Paralegal

Tena K. Dooley

Tena is a Medicaid Paralegal.  She is very meticulous and organized.  She works closely with the attorneys, clients, and State representatives. 

Tena has an associate in applied science and has over 20 years of office management experience. She has two daughters and one grandson.

Tena enjoys spending time with her family.  She enjoys everything outdoors and her hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL & ACCOUNTANT

Sydney R. Morris

PARALEGAL & ACCOUNTANT

Sydney R. Morris

Sydney is the law firm’s internal accountant and one of their experienced paralegals having been with Paths Law Firm since 2017. She is a primary point of contact for estate planning and business planning.

Sydney graduated with honors from the University of Missouri Kansas City in 2022 with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. She is a Bloch Launchpad, Phi Theta Kappa, and National Honor Society alumni.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her husband, reading, baking and going on long walks. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Christy L. Phillips

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Christy L. Phillips

Christy has three years of experience in elder law working for seniors and their families. She is currently the Senior Administrative Assistant and organizes the day to day functions of the office and makes sure everything runs smoothly. When asked why she loved what she does, Christy said at Paths Law Firm, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite parts of the job are getting to know the clients and helping them get their questions answered. 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as the Senior Administrative Assistant. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to the relationship she had with her grandparents. 

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has been with her high school sweetheart for 25 years and they have two beautiful children together. Her daughter works in the medical industry, and her son currently attends High School and plays Baseball. When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and spending time with her family and friends.

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 A. Fracassa

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

In her spare time, René is currently quite active managing multiple generations of her family, including parents and grandkids.  René has had great impact on the lives of many women teaching discipling and teaching and abundance of Bible Studies. Her former career in management and event planning trained her well to juggle all the activity.

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hilary plays a vital role in managing the Marketing Department at Paths Law Firm.  She is excellent at bringing new ideas and sharing valuable resources with the law firm and our community. Hilary has been with the law firm since the beginning, working in nearly every role which is invaluable in her marketing endeavors as she brings a unique set of skills into the Marketing Department.

Hilary is nearly complete in her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Marketing at Park University.  She has earned the honor of being listed in National Honors Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Dean’s List. Hilary is always looking for new and innovative ways to share the law firm’s message.

While not working, Hilary spends her time with her family at their rural home. They tend to their chickens and honeybees and enjoy the solitude of country living.

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer is the Sr. Paralegal and Operations Manager at Paths Law Firm.  She oversees the firm’s probate department as well developing, implementing, and managing all the firm’s administrative processes having been with the law firm almost from the beginning.  She enjoys client contact as well as behind-the-scenes operations.

 

Jennifer began her legal career in 1990 as a legal secretary.  She has worked in small and medium sized firms, as well as court operations.  She has her Paralegal Certificate from Boston University, Law Office Management Certificate from University of Central Missouri, and she is a Master Financial Coach. 

 

Jennifer has two daughters, twin sons, and twin grandsons.  She spends as much time as she can with them.  She enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and tending her yard. 

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

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 more than 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 an accountant and his first couple years practicing law was as a tax attorney. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty’s focus is helping protect seniors’ assets from taxes and long-term care costs, benefit qualification, and navigating more complex family scenarios in their estate planning.

Rusty has personally experienced the loss every parent fears, caring for a spouse suffering with cancer and the treatment, and working with aging parents through all stages of their lives.  He intimately understands the challenges faced by individuals and their caretakers when capacity or health declines, how to prepare for it, and the legal matters while in the midst of it.  He may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind.

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.

Rusty has multiple degrees and advanced study spanning his Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration – Accounting at Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University), Masters of Arts in Accounting and in Intercultural Studies, as well as his Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law.

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