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CYBER INTESTACY: Leaving Loved Ones in the Clouds

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By Hoffman & Associates

You know the stories of the celebrities who die without a will, leaving loved ones to fend for themselves and the state deciding the allocation of their assets.  So, we’re all aware (or should be aware) of the issues surrounding passing without a valid Will, but an increasingly common estate planning oversight is known as ‘cyber intestacy’, or dying without a plan for your online presence and digital assets.

With the convenience of online shopping and banking, the world of social networking, storing precious photos, and even tracking family history and genetic testing results, the “Cloud” may contain mass amounts of valuable data about you and even hold some of your valuable assets.

This online information about you is yours, so, much of it becomes part of your estate when you die.  It is increasingly possible that your estate might even own digital assets that outsize your tangible ones. Failure to account for this kind of information and activity in your estate plan can pose an extra set of challenging hurdles for those you leave behind.


You may be ‘cyber intestate‘ if you engage in any of the following activities online but your estate plan fails to address:

  • Online banking, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts,
  • Stored credit card information,
  • Automatic bill pay arrangements,
  • “Good-until cancelled” subscriptions,
  • Money-transfer repositories, such as Venmo or Paypal,
  • Social media accounts and blogs, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
  • Movie and online streaming accounts, like Spotify and Netflix,
  • Genetic testing and analysis applications, such as AncestryDNA and 23andMe.


If you were to pass today, how would your loved ones handle your online presence?   It depends.  According to Jack Linshi, “Several state legislatures have debated the question of whether family can access someone’s digital assets after they die.  Most large Internet companies, citing federal privacy laws, will not allow your family to access your account after death.” (Time 2015, Here’s What Happens to your Facebook Account After You Die).  Georgia recently adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which provides guidance as to who may access and manage a person’s digital assets after his or her death.  While this statute may give your loved ones guidance on how to access your digital assets, they also need to know what to access.


According to Cassandra Ceron, senior associate at Hoffman & Associates, “It’s important to add a “digital-asset” clause to your will and general power of attorney so that loved ones know what’s out there and how to access it – especially assets with value, such as Paypal and Venmo accounts, reward programs, like frequent flyer miles – even cryptocurrency”.  At a minimum, prepare a document, such as a ‘love letter’, to provide basic information and instructions to your family – including retirement, insurance, banking and financial account details, online account information, advisor contact information, and user names and passwords.

Hoffman & Associates provides our clients with easy-to-use templates that help clients detail online accounts, who can access them, and how.  For more information regarding this and any other estate planning concern, please contact Hoffman & Associates at (404) 255-7400 or info@hoffmanestatelaw.com.