What happens to digital accounts after someone passes away? This has become a hot button issue in estate planning and technology law. In fact, I have posted multiple times on this subject this year.
Currently, most states do not have laws granting executors or others access to digital accounts of a decedent. This means access is determined by the terms, conditions and privacy policies of the technology companies operating the websites hosting the digital assets.
The Uniform Law Commission has come up with a plan called the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act that, if adopted by the states, could help end this problem. However, as National Public Radio notes, in a recent article titled “A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We're Gone,” the idea is not popular with all technology companies.
The Commission states that its proposal would give an executor access to accounts in the same way that a family has access to real world items, such as photographs and letters. However, technology companies say the proposal could create privacy concerns for third-parties as their communications with the deceased would be accessible.
It is clear something needs to be done about the problem with the digital accounts of decedents.
Some technology companies, such as Yahoo Japan, have taken steps to allow account holders to choose who has access to what after they pass away. Other companies are waiting for legal solutions. Still others are satisfied with the current landscape.
Regardless what happens in the future on the legal side as affects how your digital accounts will be administered postmortem is something you need to address in your estate plan.
In the very least, make a list of your digital assets (e.g., email accounts, financial accounts, websites, etc.) and record the login/password information. Then, make sure this list is accessible to someone you trust when needed.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: National Public Radio (July 23, 2014) “A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We're Gone”