Digital assets are any online accounts or files that a person owns or controls, such as email, social media, cloud storage, cryptocurrency, etc. Digital assets may have sentimental or financial value, and they may also contain personal or confidential information.
Therefore, it is important to know how they are treated in probate.
Probate is a legal process for administering a deceased person’s estate and distributing their assets to their heirs or beneficiaries.
In Indiana, probate is required for estates that have a gross value of more than $50,000 or that contain real estate. Probate is supervised by a probate judge who oversees the administration of the estate by a personal representative (also called an executor or administrator).
The personal representative is responsible for identifying, collecting, valuing and distributing the assets of the estate, as well as paying any debts, taxes and expenses. The personal representative must file an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court within two months of being appointed. The inventory must include a description and value of each asset as of the date of death.
How do probate judges value digital assets?
Unlike tangible assets, such as bank accounts, stocks or real estate, digital assets may not have a clear market value or ownership record. Moreover, digital assets may be subject to different laws and policies depending on the type of asset, the service provider and the location of the user.
Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act
Indiana has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which took effect on March 23, 2016. RUFADAA gives your trustee or representative the ability to manage your digital assets and electronic communications.
You must do so in your trust, will, a power of attorney or some other document. Courts can also allow access, as can the service provider’s own terms of service.
The RUFADAA also allows a decedent to use an online tool provided by a service provider to direct the disclosure or nondisclosure of their digital assets to a designated recipient. This online tool overrides any contrary direction in a will or other document.