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Digital Estate Planning in Washington State


At Duncan Law PLLC, we recognize that in today's digital age, your online presence and digital assets are increasingly important parts of your estate. This guide aims to answer all your questions about digital estate planning in Washington State.
 

What is Digital Estate Planning?
 

Digital estate planning involves making arrangements for the management and disposition of your digital assets after your death or incapacity. This includes online accounts, digital files, cryptocurrencies, and other virtual property.
 

Why is Digital Estate Planning Important?
 

  1. Ensures your digital assets are not lost or inaccessible

  2. Protects your online privacy and legacy

  3. Prevents identity theft after death

  4. Allows for the proper management of valuable digital assets

  5. Provides clear instructions for your executors and heirs
     

What Are Considered Digital Assets?
 

Digital assets may include:

  • Email accounts

  • Social media profiles

  • Online banking and investment accounts

  • Cloud storage accounts

  • Digital photos and videos

  • Websites and domain names

  • Online business accounts

  • Cryptocurrencies and NFTs

  • Digital music and book libraries

  • Online gaming accounts and virtual goods
     

What Laws Govern Digital Assets in Washington State?


Washington State has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA). This law:

  • Gives fiduciaries the legal authority to manage digital assets and electronic communications

  • Respects the user's privacy choices

  • Allows custodians of digital assets to deal with fiduciaries
     

How Do I Include Digital Assets in My Estate Plan?
 

  1. Create an inventory of your digital assets

  2. Decide what you want done with each asset

  3. Choose a digital executor

  4. Include digital asset provisions in your will or trust

  5. Use online tools provided by digital platforms where available

  6. Consider a password manager or digital vault
     

Let's explore each of these steps in more detail.
 

Creating a Digital Asset Inventory
 

What should I include in my digital asset inventory?

  • List of all online accounts with usernames (not passwords)

  • Digital devices you own

  • Digital files and their locations

  • Cryptocurrencies and wallet information

  • Domain names and websites
     

How should I store this inventory?

  • Keep it in a secure location, separate from your passwords

  • Consider using a password manager or digital vault

  • Update it regularly
     

Deciding What Happens to Your Digital Assets


What are my options for my digital assets after death?

  • Transfer to heirs

  • Delete or close accounts

  • Memorialize (for some social media accounts)

  • Donate (for some types of digital assets)
     

Can I specify different instructions for different assets?

Yes, you can provide specific instructions for each digital asset in your estate planning documents.
 

Choosing a Digital Executor


What is a digital executor?

A digital executor is someone you designate to manage your digital assets after your death.


Does Washington State recognize digital executors?

While Washington doesn't have a specific "digital executor" role, you can give your executor or trustee authority to manage digital assets.


What should I consider when choosing a digital executor?

  • Tech-savviness

  • Trustworthiness

  • Willingness to take on the responsibility

  • Understanding of your wishes
     

Including Digital Assets in Your Will or Trust


How do I address digital assets in my will?

  • Include a clause giving your executor authority over digital assets

  • Specify any particular wishes for certain assets

  • Reference your separate digital asset inventory


Can I include passwords in my will?

It's generally not recommended to include passwords in your will, as it becomes a public document after probate.
 

Using Online Tools for Digital Estate Planning


What are online tools?

Many digital platforms (like Google and Facebook) offer tools to designate legacy contacts or set preferences for what happens to your account after death.


Do online tools override my will?

Under RUFADAA, instructions left through online tools take precedence over instructions in traditional legal documents.

Password Managers and Digital Vaults


What is a password manager?

A password manager is a secure application that stores and manages online credentials.

 

How can a password manager help with digital estate planning?

  • Keeps all your login information in one secure place

  • Some offer legacy contact features

  • Can generate and store strong, unique passwords


What is a digital vault?

A digital vault is a secure online storage space for important documents and information, including digital asset inventories.
 

How Does Washington's RUFADAA Affect Digital Estate Planning?


What rights does RUFADAA give to fiduciaries?

RUFADAA allows fiduciaries to access and manage digital assets, subject to the user's instructions and privacy choices.
 

How does RUFADAA protect privacy?

It requires fiduciaries to respect the user's privacy settings and only gives them access to necessary information.
 

What Happens if I Don't Plan for My Digital Assets?


Without proper planning:

  • Your digital assets may be inaccessible to your heirs

  • Valuable or sentimental digital property could be lost

  • Your online accounts might remain active, risking identity theft

  • Your heirs might violate terms of service trying to access your accounts
     

How Do I Handle Cryptocurrencies in My Estate Plan?
 

  • Include them in your digital asset inventory

  • Provide instructions for accessing wallet keys

  • Consider using a custodial service that allows beneficiary designation

  • Educate your executor or heir on how to manage and transfer cryptocurrencies
     

Can I Transfer My Digital Music and E-book Libraries?


This depends on the terms of service of each platform. Many digital media purchases are licenses that terminate at death. However, you can:
 

  • Check the terms of service for transferability

  • Consider using platforms that allow family sharing

  • Leave login information so heirs can access the accounts
     

How Do I Protect My Online Business in My Digital Estate Plan?
 

  • Include business accounts and assets in your digital inventory

  • Provide clear succession instructions

  • Consider setting up a trust to manage business digital assets

  • Ensure your business partner(s) have necessary access information
     

How Often Should I Update My Digital Estate Plan?


Review and update your digital estate plan:

  • Annually

  • When you acquire significant new digital assets

  • After major life changes

  • When you change passwords for important accounts
     

How Can I Ensure My Digital Legacy Aligns with My Values?
 

  • Clearly communicate your wishes for your digital presence after death

  • Use social media legacy settings to control posthumous posting

  • Consider writing ethical wills or legacy letters to be shared digitally
     

Why Choose Duncan Law PLLC for Digital Estate Planning?
 

At Duncan Law PLLC, we offer:

  • Up-to-date knowledge of Washington State digital asset laws

  • Customized digital estate planning strategies

  • Integration of digital planning with overall estate plans

  • Guidance on best practices for digital asset management

  • Ongoing support to keep your digital estate plan current
     

Don't leave your digital legacy to chance. Contact us today to ensure your online life is properly managed according to your wishes.
 

Phone: 206-237-7714 

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