Estate Planning and Your Digital Assets

What will happen to my online accounts when I die?

The internet has changed the way we live. Our lives are now plastered all over the internet, from email to social media accounts. With each generation, our digital footprint is only growing larger, and laws on what happens to all of this data when we die have yet to catch up with technology. Many of us do not want our digital possessions to extinguish when we die, so it becomes vital to consider digital assets when crafting an estate plan.

Your Social Media Accounts

Social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, allow us a way to connect on the web. Many of us post meaningful pictures and other data on our social media accounts, which may be precious to our loved ones after we die. Individual social media companies all have policies in place governing what will happen to your account upon your death. For example, Facebook allows a relative or friend to request that your account becomes memorialized or frozen in time. This will require proof of your death.

To help ensure your social media accounts are not erased posthumously, consider storing your usernames and passwords in a safe location, perhaps along with your will or with a password management software. Leave instructions for your executor on where to find the list and access the accounts. Do not include usernames and passwords within the will itself because it will become public information.

Email Accounts

Many relatives of those who have died would like to access their email accounts in order to pull memorable messages and images. Laws concerning the granting of access to email accounts varies by state. Court systems are still struggling between the desire of relatives to access these accounts versus the need to preserve the privacy of the deceased.

In states in which no law exists governing the matter, it may be left up to the email provider. Yahoo is known to terminate the account upon a user’s death and not allow family members access. You can avoid such hurdles by writing down your username and password for your loved ones, thus permitting them access to the account for the purpose of preserving important messages. These are just some of the many online accounts you should consider in your estate plan. Consult with an estate planning lawyer for more assistance with protecting your digital assets.

Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.