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Michigan law simplifies digital asset management

It's easy to overlook digital assets in estate planning. Many of us have more online accounts than we can keep track of, and your PayPal and Facebook accounts may not be the first thing you think of when you think of leaving a legacy.

Michigan has joined a growing numbers of states in making it easier for executors to access the digital assets of someone who is deceased. A new law based on the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act was enacted this year. Here's what it does:

  • If a digital service provider allows users to designate someone to be able to access some or all of the assets attached to their account, this law makes that choice legally enforceable.
  • If a service provider does not offer a way for users to create such a directive, the law generally enforces these directives when placed in a will, trust or power of attorney.

Without any directives, however, a service provider's terms of service generally governs how your assets will be handled. In most cases, that will mean denying access to anyone who isn't already an owner of the account.

So while this law will help insure your wishes are respected if you make them known, it's also an important reminder to think through what you want to happen to your online accounts after your death - and be sure these wishes are made known in a way that is legally enforceable.

Take some time to inventory all of your online accounts, and check if they have a way to designate someone to access your accounts after your death. And regardless of what tools service providers offer for making your wishes known, you should work with your estate attorney to make sure you've made all of your directives clear.

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