What will happen to your online accounts after death?

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 digital assetsservice 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. 

Managing an estate has become a tedious process shared by personal representatives and grieving loved ones. The identification of all active accounts, both digital and traditional, has become overwhelming. Accounts are often left hidden or forgotten at a time when certainty is needed. Navigating complex, ever-changing account requirements leads to confusion and ultimately procrastination, posing serious problems for the estate’s short and long term future

One of DCS’s neatest features is a browser extension that prompts you to add accounts as you create them on the web, creating a running list of your digital property. The list will save your survivors the trouble of rooting out your online life.

The service tracks your online accounts as well as your intentions for each. It might make sense to grant your executor access to your bank account, for example. But perhaps you’d rather quietly wind down your World of Warcraft account. No need for your survivors to know how badly you jonesed to max out all your artifact weapons in WoW: Legion.

When the family is depressed and sad and grieving, sorting through one’s digital life is not something they really want to do. Talk with our staff to learn how we can integrate this service in to your estate plan.

The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.

Contact our office by calling (608) 268-5751 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form.