You have probably decided who gets the house or the IRA when you die. But what about your email accounts, bank accounts, and all those photo’s stored on Face Book?
Grieving relatives might want access for sentimental reasons or to settle finances. But if you give out your passwords, your children could read your exchanges on an online dating profile or your spouse could read your every e-mail!
But think about this- you might have a popular cooking blog or YouTube video that is worth considerable value to your estate.
The law on this topic has lagged behind our electronic footprints. But, on July 16, 2014,a new act was approved by a national law group which provides comprehensive provisions governing access to digital assets. www.uniformlaws.org
Privacy activists are skeptical and think a judge’s approval should be needed to access the Internet sites of a deceased person, to protect both the owners of the accounts AND those who communicate with them.
In the meantime, until your state adopts its own version of the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, sharing your passwords may not be a good idea. Anti-hacking laws and most companies’ “terms of service” agreements prohibit anyone from accessing an account that isn’t theirs.
Several tech companies have come up with their own solutions. Facebook will “memorialize” accounts by allowing already confirmed “friends” to view old photo’s and old posts. Google, which runs Gmail, YouTube, and Picasa, offers its own version: If a user doesn’t log on after a certain period of time, their accounts can be deleted or shared with a designated person, such as the Personal Representative of your Estate. Yahoo users agree when signing up that accounts expire when they die.