Does your Will say anything about your Facebook account? Your email accounts? Your Pokecoins?
Many people store photos online, have cloud-based collections of books and music, and use cloud storage products like DropBox and Google to store their documents. Some people even have valuable gaming assets or currency online.
The law is struggling to adapt to the explosion of online property we’ve all started to accumulate. (Technology develops at a much faster pace than legislation.)
The Uniform Law Commission, an organization that drafts model laws (such as the Uniform Probate Code and Uniform Commercial Code) recently drafted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which has been adopted by some states and is being considered in many others. New Hampshire and Massachusetts are both considering adopting this law, but have not done so yet.
So what can you do now? Having updated estate planning documents that authorize your agents and executors to have access to your digital assets is important. You may also wish to keep a list of your digital assets and a list of your wishes- for example, would you want the accounts to be deleted? Do you want your family to have access to all of the pictures? What about your email contacts?
If your agents and executors know what you want and have the authority granted to them in your estate plan, they’ll be well-placed to carry out your wishes. Depending on the asset, you may wish to incorporate it directly into your Will or Power of Attorney.
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Accessing Digital Accounts after Death
Many digital companies have procedures for dealing with account holders who have passed away. (Apple doesn’t as of this writing.) They may also have default modes of freezing accounts- Facebook, for example, "memorializes" the accounts of deceased users so that they can be viewed but not used.
Companies will require documentation (such as a death certificate or court appointment) if you want to do anything with another person’s account or have access to its contents. Even if a company does not have a specific policy, they may be able to help you if you can provide documentation proving death and showing that you have legal authority to deal with the account.
Facebook: Your Digital Legacy
Instagram: Report a deceased person’s account
WordPress: Deceased User
Dropbox: Access a deceased person’s account