New York residents are part of the growing trend of storing photos and other personal digital assets on social media sites and in other online venues. However, another significant issue is becoming more common in connection with digital assets. Family members are often left wondering how to deal with the accounts of a loved one after that individual expires.
Planning for one’s death today should include the handling of such digital accounts. Those accounts that contain photos, for example, may be of significant value to family members, making access a major concern. At the same time, privacy interests may be of significant importance to an account owner. If the probate process provides a loved one with the ability to access private accounts, unpleasant or private information could be released to an individual for whom it was never intended.
Failing to include a listing of accounts, current passwords and instructions could result in a difficult scenario for the executor of one’s estate. The use of software to manage passwords may simplify the issue the most, making it necessary to only provide a single account and password to the survivor. This may be useful for addressing social media, email and shopping accounts. It could also streamline the process of dealing with bank accounts and bills. It is important to remember that allowing an heir to access accounts after one’s death won’t necessarily ensure that estate planning instructions related to those accounts will be accepted by the related sites. It is still important to keep beneficiary information updated and to review additional details periodically.
Because online accounts and access can change frequently, it is important to be somewhat meticulous in tracking passwords and related information. Additionally, working on details of a living trust with an attorney can be important for addressing changing legal issues related to any assets, including those that are digital.