Your digital life and assets can include online music, photos, social media accounts, gaming winnings, and the like. But most of us don’t look at these items as assets that we should think about and plan for when we pass away.
But when you pass away, your heirs and/or executor has to deal with digital assets just like any other assets. They can’t just get into your Apple account to retrieve your music or credit or take down your Facebook account. They don’t have the user name and password, so they can’t access it, and companies, including social media companies, will not allow you to access the deceased’s account without going through a lengthy process (rightfully so).
Because this has become such an issue, the Uniform Law Commission has implemented a model law to allow fiduciaries to have access to digital assets. Delaware became the first state to adopt the law.
In addition, 19 states have passed their own laws to protect people’s digital assets and give the heirs/executor the right to access and manage online accounts after death, but again, there are processes that must be followed by the family members before they can get access to the accounts. If you have ever been an executor of an estate, you will want to make the job easier for your executor.
How can you help your heirs? Just as you should plan for your death and consider having a will, a health care power of attorney, and a durable power of attorney, you should also plan for the transfer of digital assets to your heirs and work with your estate planning attorney to include these assets in your estate plan. It is important to include the information necessary for your heirs to access these accounts after your death, which would include user names and passwords for each account. It is not recommended that the user names and passwords be attached to any legal documents that may be filed in court, as they could potentially become public. But work with your attorney to gather the information necessary and be able to provide it to your heirs and family members to make the process easier for them. You will be gone, but it will make a big difference for them.