Category Archives: Beneficiary Basics

Designated Beneficaries. Primary beneficaires. Contingent Beneficiaries. Payable upon death beneficaries. transfer on death beneficaries. Estate is the beneficiary. Joint Tenancy with rights of survivorship.

Which state is the first to adopt the revised UFADAA?

oregonOregon became the first state to adopt the revised Uniform fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act when Governor Kate Brown signed it into law on March 3, 2016.  It will become effective on January 1, 2017.

The revised act is designed to ensure that account holders can retail control of their digital property and can plan for its disposition after their death.  It also helps avoid circumstances where online service providers delete deceased’s accounts without authorization or refuse to hand over access and information to permitted fiduciaries.

Will your state be next?

For more information about the revised UFADAA, go to


Do you want to plan your own funeral?

EverestFuneralConciergeMeetWillIt used to be that if you wanted to plan your own funeral, you would sit down with pen and paper and write down your ideas.  The ideas might be very simple  or, conversely, completely elaborate.  However, they would only be documented on that paper you prepared.

Today there are alternatives.  Three of the latest apps that can help you are Everest, Cake and SafeBeyond.  These death apps promise to “help a person organize his or her entire online life into a bundle of digital living wills, funeral plans, multimedia memorial portfolios and digital estate arrangements.”  In addition, some death apps digitally transmit account passwords to your loved ones after you die.

Another service, Afternote, offers templates so you can create a multimedia tribute about yourself while you’re still alive.

The article I read on this subject had a headline “My name’s Will, and I’m dead.”  (See photo above.)  While he was still alive, Will left a detailed plan for the funeral he wanted and his family was able to use his plan to make arrangements.  He made a video explaining what he’d done and explaining why.  After his death, his loved ones watched the video and, although they were upset, the were not as stressed as they would have been if they had to plan the whole thing themselves and guess at what Will would have wanted.

Many people are beginning to incorporate their digital lives into their end of life plans and are recognizing how important a step it is.  According to a 2011 McAfee study, the average American valued their digital assets at around $55,000 and had at least 90 online accounts.    If the valued assets and access to the online accounts are not documented, they may all be lost after death.

It is important that you start making a plan today.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s on paper or developed thru an online software program like one of these.  Regardless, you should start planning today.

In addition to looking at software programs, you should read our book Access Denied to find out what you have to do to make sure that your loved ones will have access to everything once you’re gone and check out our website


What’s your most important password?

passwordsYou may guess it’s the password to your online bank account, to Facebook or to a shopping site.  Those are all important but there’s one that it’s critical you share with a loved one.  It’s the password to your email account.

Why is this so important?  When you die, your loved one or executor will try to access all of your online accounts so that they can close them down or, if necessary, continue their use.  For example, they may want to shut down your account on Amazon since you won’t be doing any more shopping.  Or, if you pay your utility bills online, they may want to continue to pay them until they sell your home.

You may use the same login information and password for all of your accounts but chances are that you have several different ones.  However, most of the accounts have a system that will enable a user to recover a forgotten login or password.  The user just needs to know how to access the email account linked to that other site so he or she can recover the information when it is sent out.

Although it is not strictly legal for you to share your password and login information, it is the easiest way to ensure that when you’re gone, your executor will be able to easily access your information and settle your estate.

For more information about digital estates and the steps you should take to be sure you have included them in your planning process, check out our book “Access Denied ” or go to our site

What’s UFADAA and why should you care?




We’ve talked several times about the importance of managing your digital assets and making sure your loved ones will be able to access them when you’re gone.

UFADAA stands for Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.  It was developed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and is a recommended act that all states are encouraged to enact.  The first approved version of the act did not meet the needs of the states and very few of them approved it.  However, in late 2015, a revised act was passed.  It has several important points:

  • It gives internet users control.  It allows users to specify whether their digital assets should be preserved, distributed to heirs or destroyed.
  • It provides efficient uniformity for all concerned.  Digital assets cross state lines.  A uniform law ensures that fiduciaries (the people who are appointed to manage our property when we die or are unable to manage it ourselves) in every state will have equal access to digital assets and custodians will have a single legal standard with which to comply.
  • It respects privacy interests.  It prevents the companies that store our communications from releasing them to fiduciaries unless the user consented to disclosure.
  • It works hand-in-hand with federal and state law.  Fiduciaries must provide proof of their authority in the form of a certified document.  Custodians of digital assets that comply with a fiduciary’s apparently authorized request for access are immune from any liability under statutes that prohibit unauthorized access.  A fiduciary’s authority over digital assets is limited by federal law, including the Copyright Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

19 states are considering passing a law that encompasses at least some of what was recommended in the revised UFADAA.  You should contact your representatives and urge them to enact this legislation.  It will make it much easier for you to manage the digital estate of a loved one after he or she has died.

For more information about UFADAA and other issues related to your digital estate, check out our book ACCESS DENIED: WHY YOUR PASSWORDS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR WILL.


Do you know what your digital assets are worth…and what happens to them when you die?


A 2013 estimate by McAfee found that the average person’s digital assets are worth $35,000.  That may be in things such as airline miles, purchased media, online bank accounts, Bitcoins, domain names.  Regardless of what they are in, their value can add up quickly.

As my attorney put it, “The digital world is today’s Wild West.  There are no sheriffs and no predictable law.”  Yet you have to find a way to protect these assets and to pass their worth on when you die.

A recent blog by Sharon Fisher gave some great examples of people who didn’t do anything and what happened when they were gone.

A son gave up about $2000 that resided in a PayPal account because his father hadn’t left a will granting him possession to those funds.

Michael Hamelin, a hacker who died in an accident had secured his family’s systems so well that even with the help of other hacker friends, his wife hasn’t be able to gain access to some of their files, including the only copies of digital photos they owned.

Peggy Bush, who we previously wrote about, was a Canadian widow who was told by Apple that she’d have to get a court order for the company to reveal the password to an iPad card game she and he husband linked to play.

In addition to policies of each company that has an online presence, laws vary by state.  It’s a very complex situation.

Be sure you have a plan for how to deal with your digital assets.  Check out our book, ACCESS DENIED: WHY PASSWORDS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR WILL, which will walk you thru the issues and help you to figure out what to do.