The internet has turned the paper trail of one’s life into virtual confetti of online accounts. Sure, it’s not hard to find someone’s Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. You might even be able to guess a password or two. But you won’t guess them all, and even if you could you might be breaking the law; in many places, accounts can’t be legally accessed by anyone other than the holder.
All that gray area creates the potential for Twitter, Facebook, email and other accounts to sit stranded online in a state of suspended animation. At best, they’ll be creepy reminders every time they prompt friends and family to wish a happy birthday to the departed. At worst, they’ll keep important assets, like bank balances, locked away.
There are currently federal and state laws that may make it a criminal offense for anyone other than the account owner to access an account. This is true even if the owner gives another person permission to do so. By the end of 2017, it is expected that almost every state will have enacted some form of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. RUFADAA will allow for users to request a service provider to give a fiduciary access either by opting in on an online tool furnished by the service provider or through one’s estate planning documents.
The biggest challenge facing your estate may be finding digital assets after a death. If your family or named fiduciary isn’t aware that you have a Dropbox account, no one may ever look for it.
We recently partnered with Directive Communication Systems which provides personal representatives with a powerful solution for managing personal accounts. When the time comes, DCS works with accounts to implement an estate’s final wishes which may include deletion, transference, memorialization or other instruction. Even a financial institution can be contacted to initiate next steps for the attorney. With DCS, you can be assured that accounts will be managed securely and estate administration will be handled smoothly saving both time and anxiety. Continue reading