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What is RUFADAA - Everything You Need to Know

Because so much of our lives are controlled by technology, it’s important to understand how federal and state laws may affect your estate plan.

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Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

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So many aspects of our lives are managed online over multiple accounts. As a result, state laws have had to catch up with how we oversee our online accounts in life and after death.

What is The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA)?

RUFADAA is a law that provides the Executor of an Estate, or an attorney, with access to someone's online accounts after death or incapacitation. Developed by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), RUFADAA extends the power traditionally given to the Executor of an Estate or a Trustee when managing someone's tangible assets to include their digital assets as well.

Here at Trust & Will, we've demystified RUFADAA and what it means for digital asset management. For information on how to create your own digital Estate Plan, we've got that covered, too.

  1. Managing Digital Assets Under RUFADAA

  2. RUFADAA Laws by State

  3. Creating Your Digital Estate Plan

Managing Digital Assets Under RUFADAA

RUFADAA is the revised version of UFADAA that sought to give Estate Executors and Trustees the same access to an online account as the owner in the event of their death or incapacitation. Critics of the law made the case that the law went too far and that there weren't enough protections in place, and they won that argument, leading to the passing of RUFADAA.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act only gives an Executor of Trustee access to the content of electronic communications, including emails, chats, and DMs, if the Decedent explicitly consented. 

The businesses that make, store, or provide digital assets, like Google and Facebook, are known under RUFADAA as Custodians. To limit their role in the settlement of an Estate, Custodians may request court orders before turning over access to an account. They may also only provide access to "reasonably necessary" information for settling an Estate. Custodians cannot provide access to deleted assets or joint accounts.

RUFADAA provides a basic framework for how the state and an Executor, Fiduciary, or attorney should manage someone's digital assets after death or incapacitation. A hierarchy of protocols provides clear instructions for how one could go about managing or closing someone's online accounts:

Online Tools

Online tools like Google's Inactive Account Manager and Facebook's Legacy Contact let users decide what should happen to their account after death or long periods of inactivity. When tools like this are present, RUFADAA dictates that they have priority over all other instructions, including a website's Terms of Service.

Google's Inactive Account Manager allows Google users to designate a Trusted Contact who would gain access to an account after a certain period of inactivity. A user may also choose to have information permanently deleted. Google detects inactivity by your last sign-ins, recent activity, usage of Gmail on the web or in-app, and Android check-ins.

Facebook's Legacy Contact allows a user to designate someone they trust to manage their account after death. While not given full access to the account, a Legacy Contact can write a pinned post for someone's profile and update their profile and cover photos. They can also request the removal of a user's account. A Legacy Contact cannot read a user's private messages or remove past posts or friends.

Legal Documents

If a Custodian does not offer an online tool, RUFADAA states that the next course of action is to look to the legal documents. This can be a Will, Trust, or Power of Attorney. A person's digital Estate Plan can grant an Executor or Fiduciary access to one or more specific accounts. A digital Estate Plan can also restrict access to someone's online accounts.

Terms of Service Agreements

If someone has left no information about accessing their online accounts, either through an online tool or digital Estate Plan, a Custodian's Terms of Service will dictate a Fiduciary's access to a user's digital asset. You might see how this could bring up issues if you can remember the last time you read a website's Terms of Service. Exactly.

For instance, Verizon and all of their child companies, including Yahoo!, dictate that all accounts are non-transferable and terminate upon a user's death. If left to the Terms of Service agreement, your family and loved ones could prematurely lose access to crucial information needed to settle your Estate.

RUFADAA Laws by State

Most states enacted RUFADAA as a means of directing how to manage someone's digital assets after their death. Under RUFADAA, a Decedent's Executor or Trustee can access and manage an Estate's digital assets and electronic communications. The definition of what qualifies as a digital asset or electronic communication depends on your state.

If your state passed a RUFADAA law, you will find it below:

Alabama

HB 138 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective January 1, 2018

Alaska

HB 108 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective October 31, 2017

Arizona

SB 1413 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective May 11, 2016

Arkansas

HB2253 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective April 4, 2017

California

AB-691 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective September 24, 2016

Colorado

SB 16-088 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective April 7, 2016

Connecticut

SB 262 Public Act No. 05-136, effective October 1, 2005

Delaware

HB 345 Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts, effective August 12, 2014

Florida

SB 494, Chapter 740 Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2016

Georgia

SB 301 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2018

Hawaii

SB2298 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2016

Idaho

SB 1303 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2016

Illinois

HB 4648 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective August 12, 2016

Indiana

SB 253 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective March 23, 2016

Iowa

SF 333 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective April 20, 2017

Kansas

SB 63 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2017

Kentucky

HB 156 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 15, 2020

Louisiana

No legislation

Maine

LD 846 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2018

Maryland

SB239/HB507 Maryland Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective October 1, 2016

Massachusetts

HD 3489 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective January 1, 2020

Michigan

HB 5034 The Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act, effective June 27, 2016

Minnesota

Minnesota Statutes Chapter 521A Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective August 1, 2016

Mississippi

HB 489 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2017

Missouri

HB 1250 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective August 28, 2018

Montana

SB 118 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective October 1, 2017

Nebraska

LB 829 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective January 1, 2017

Nevada

SB 131, effective October 1, 2013

New Hampshire

SB 147 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective June 27, 2019

New Jersey

AB 3433 Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective September 17, 2017

New Mexico

SB 60 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective January 1, 2018

New York

AB A9910A, effective September 29, 2016

North Carolina

SB 805 Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, effective June 30, 2016

North Dakota

HB 1214, effective March 30, 2017

Ohio

HB 432 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective April 6, 2017

Oklahoma

HB 2800, effective November 1, 2010

Oregon

SB 1554 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective January 1, 2017

Pennsylvania

SB 320 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Amending Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries), effective July 23, 2020

Rhode Island

HB 5778, effective July 15, 2019

South Carolina

SB 908 South Carolina Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act, effective June 3, 2016

South Dakota

HB1080 Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2017

Tennessee

SB 326 Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2016

Texas

SB 1193 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective September 1, 2017

Utah

HB 13 Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective May 9, 2017

Vermont

HB 152 (Act 13) Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2017

Virginia

HB 1608, effective February 17, 2017

Washington

SB 5029 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective June 9, 2016

Washington, D.C.

Council Bill 230141, Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act of 2019, effective January 13, 2021

West Virginia

SB 102 Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective June 5, 2018

Wisconsin

AB 695 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective April 1, 2016

Wyoming

SF0034 Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective July 1, 2016

Creating Your Digital Estate Plan

The average online user can have up to 100 different passwords to remember, sometimes more. That's a lot of accounts to keep track of. While you may have a system for managing your most important online accounts, have you thought of what will happen to them in the event of your death?

You should have a clear (and legally binding) plan for your digital assets, even if your state has passed a version of RUFADAA. If you want the Executor of your Estate, Beneficiary, or attorney to access your online accounts, designate that in your Will.

A comprehensive digital Estate Plan will include a full inventory of your digital assets, along with information on how to access those accounts. That doesn't just mean your email and social media accounts. While those may be the most frequented, digital assets also include:

  • Photos, digital music, and files on your computer, owned by you

  • Monthly subscriptions, like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify

  • Website domains

  • Blogs and all of their written content

  • Frequent flyer miles (depending on the airline)

  • Tax and financial software

  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Trust & Will, the leading experts in online Estate Planning, makes it easy to generate an inventory of your digital assets and designate what should happen to them upon your death. When you create a Will online, you can rest assured that by protecting your digital assets, you are protecting your Estate, your family, and your Beneficiaries. Get started today!

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