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Handling digital accounts for deceased loved ones

One aspect of estate planning California residents may not pay attention to is that of their digital footprint. Thanks to the policies of tech companies and confusing laws, it can be difficult for surviving loved ones to deal with the online records left behind by a loved one.

Many people have opted to go paperless. This means the electronic delivery of billing statements and tax returns that are filed digitally. However, the exact actions a family member can take with regard to deceased loved one's online accounts typically depends on what provisions the person made before their death, the laws of the state in which the person resided and what is allowed by the online accounts. Even if a surviving family member has the username and password of a deceased loved one's account, it may be illegal to use them.

Some websites allow its users to determine how their accounts may be managed if they die. For example, Facebook allows its users to designate someone who will be able to create and post a memorialization that will be placed on the user's page and who will be able to manage new friend requests from family and friends who had not been previously connected on the website.

There is also the revised Uniform Fiduciary Access Act that is effective in over two-thirds of the country. The legislation gives a fiduciary the authority to manage most of the digital assets of deceased person, allowing access to online data other than electronic communications.

An attorney who practices estate administration and probate law may be able to assist clients in ensuring that the appropriate provisions are in place so that their assets, including online accounts, are handled according to their wishes after they die. Assistance may also be provided with appointing powers of attorney to the appropriate individuals.

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