Managing Digital Assets After Death in Texas

Texas Digital Asset Estate Planning

As technology continues to evolve, digital assets have become an increasingly important part of our lives. From social media accounts and email to online banking and cryptocurrencies, these digital assets can have significant emotional and financial value. In this blog post, we will discuss how digital assets are addressed under Texas probate law and provide guidance on managing online accounts and social media presence after a loved one's death.

Understanding Digital Assets in the Context of Texas Probate Law
In Texas, digital assets are broadly defined as any electronic record or information, including online accounts, emails, social media profiles, blogs, and digital files (Texas Estates Code § 2001.002(8)). These assets may be subject to probate depending on their nature and the decedent's estate plan. As part of the estate administration process, the executor or administrator is responsible for identifying, securing, and managing digital assets, just as they would for tangible property.

The Importance of Including Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
To ensure your digital assets are managed according to your wishes, it is essential to include them in your estate plan. This may involve creating an inventory of your online accounts and digital files, appointing a digital executor, and providing instructions on how to access and manage these assets upon your death. By incorporating digital assets into your estate plan, you can help streamline the probate process and avoid potential disputes among your beneficiaries.

Gaining Access to Digital Assets Under Texas Law
In 2017, Texas enacted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), which governs how fiduciaries, including executors and administrators, can access digital assets (Texas Estates Code Chapter 2001). Under RUFADAA, a fiduciary may access a decedent's digital assets if they have the proper legal authority and comply with the terms of service for each account (Texas Estates Code § 2001.051 and § 2001.052). Some online service providers offer tools and options for users to designate a person to access their accounts after death, such as Google's Inactive Account Manager and Facebook's Legacy Contact feature.

Closing or Memorializing Social Media Accounts
Social media accounts can be a sensitive issue for grieving families, as they often serve as a digital memorial and a platform for friends and family to share memories and condolences. Each platform has its own policies and procedures for handling deceased users' accounts. For example, Facebook allows the option to memorialize the account or permanently delete it, while Twitter and Instagram provide the option to deactivate the account upon receipt of necessary documentation. It's important to be aware of these policies and follow the appropriate steps to manage a deceased loved one's social media presence.

Digital assets play a significant role in our lives, and their importance continues to grow. By understanding Texas probate law as it relates to digital assets and incorporating these assets into your estate plan, you can ensure that your online presence is managed according to your wishes after your death. If you need assistance with digital asset planning or navigating the probate process, consult with an experienced Texas probate attorney to help guide you through this complex area of law.

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