Who will access your online family photo albums, Facebook page, emails and other online social media accounts and digital assets when you pass away or become incapacitated? Who will delete any social media accounts or postings that you would want destroyed (if possible)? Earlier this year, a surviving spouse was prevented from accessing and playing a game on a computer she shared with her deceased husband. She did not have the password. Even if she did possess the password -- as ridiculous as might sound, any access to the device might have been be a criminal trespass, a violation of the provider's Terms of Service agreement, or contrary to the decedent's wishes. The surviving spouse was told that she would need a court order!
There are a three easy steps to avoid this dilemma and eliminate the expense and frustration of governmental or social media involvement with your estate. First, inventory your digital assets and securely store password access. Second, detail your wishes and instructions with respect to each computer, device or online asset. Third, choose a trusted fiduciary and obtain a digital estate plan or update your existing estate documents to include legally-authorized access for when you are incapacitated or die. Because your estate documents can clash with privacy laws, the Federal Trade Commission regulations and other laws that regulate digital asset providers, a licensed estate planning attorney in your jurisdiction should assist you in carefully drafting documents that prevent unauthorized access and grant authorized access and instructions that honor your wishes.
This Blog provides general educational information and a general understanding of the law, not specific legal advice or an attorney client relationship. Seek competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your jurisdiction.