So you have a durable power of attorney in place. You have named an agent, that is someone to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself. You have done the right thing. But does your durable power of attorney allow your named agent to access your digital devices such as your computer or smartphone, online banking, online credit card accounts, email accounts, social media, document and photo storage, blogs…?. If your durable power of attorney does not contain language regarding your digital devices, assets, and accounts and you live in Califonria, you’d better keep reading!

As of the date of this article, California has not yet adopted legislation which allows a durable power of attorney to manage digital devices, assets, and accounts in the event of the owner’s incapacity. Meaning your named agent’s access to your digital information may be restricted because there is no California law which allows your agent’s control. Thus, whether or not your agent can control your digital information is subject to the whim of the company’s policy which manages your digital information.  Many companies have their own privacy policies that make it very difficult for a third party to access someone else’s accounts, even with a power of attorney. 

So, if you want your agent under your durable power of attorney to be able to access your digital devices, assets, and accounts, your power of attorney document should specifically grant your agent the power to access and manage your digital assets and information. This should include the power to obtain and change passwords and move your digital assets onto your agent’s computer if needed.

As an estate planning concept, is a good idea to inventory all of your digital devices, assets, and accounts, along with usernames and passwords, and maintain the list with all of your other estate planning documents, such as a medical directive and durable power of attorney.  The reason for this is so that your agent (or others such as your executor or successor trustee) will have access to the list if and when necessary. Ultimately, with our increasing use of the Internet and “in the cloud” storage, your durable power of attorney had better specifically allow your agent to access your digital information or your agent will not be able to effectively and properly assist you in your incapacity.

Anyone who is interested in having a power of attorney document drafted or already has a power of attorney document and would like to know if their digital information is covered as an authorized power of their agent, contact the Chilina Law Firm or another California attorney focusing on estate planning and property law.

Authored by Karen Chilina Co-Authored by Greg Chilina, October 24, 2015.

Chilina Law Firm, a Professional Corporation, is a full-service estate planning, probate, trust administration, business law, and real property law firm that provides a wide-range of advising, transactional, and litigation services to its clients from its office located in Atascadero, California. The firm’s attorneys represent individuals and business entities in an assortment of transactional and litigation matters involving estate planning (including trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives), probate, trust administration, as well as general business law, contracts, corporate governance, land use, and real property. Chilina Law can be contacted by telephone at (805) 538-5038 or by email atinfo@chilinalaw.comor visit the Chilina Law Firm Chilina Law Firm is based in Atascadero, California and serves North San Luis Obispo County communities, including Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

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