In today's increasingly online world, it is very common for people to pass away with digital property. For example, it is likely that you have digital family photos or assets like bitcoin or hotel miles, frequent miles, or credit card points, each of which can be converted into cash. In New York, the Surrogate's Court recognizes digital assets as part of a decedent's estate and such assets include electronic documents, online accounts, email accounts, social media profiles, and other types of digital property.
When administering an estate that includes digital assets, the executor or administrator must identify and locate these assets and determine their value. This can be a complex process, as many digital assets may be stored in encrypted or password-protected accounts. It may be necessary to obtain legal access to these accounts, either through the decedent's estate planning documents or by obtaining a court order.
New York does not have specific laws governing the management of digital assets but follows a framework set in the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) for managing digital assets after death. Under the UFADAA, executors and administrators may be granted legal authority to access digital assets and manage them as part of the estate.
It's important for individuals to include digital assets in their estate planning documents and to provide instructions for how they want these assets to be managed after their death. It is also strongly advised that individuals take advantage of the "legacy contact" function that some online platforms like Facebook offer or to place a list of accounts and passwords for digital assets handy so that the Executor can marshal them.