IF YOU ARE ONLINE, you have digital assets and accounts. These can consist of email accounts, online bank accounts, store accounts and many others. In 2014, 87% of U.S. households had internet access. Most people use the internet. We have files stored on various devices like desktops, tablets and smartphones. What does that mean for our estate plans?
A LITTLE BACKGROUND. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a federal statute, generally prohibits a service provider from disclosing the content of an electronic communication to a third party except with the lawful consent of the customer. Further, Pennsylvania internet privacy law makes it a felony to access a computer or computer network without authorization. What happens if you are unable to access your accounts because of incapacity or death?
ACCESS BY EXECUTORS, TRUSTEES AND AGENTS is beginning to be addressed by some states, but coverage right now is spotty. Without access to electronic accounts, what is an Executor, Trustee or Agent to do in the meantime?
AUTHORIZATION LANGUAGE can be inserted into our Powers of Attorney, Trusts and Wills. With the appropriate consent, the Fiduciaries can freely access your accounts, locate assets, ensure that automatic payments can be terminated, protect the privacy of the incapacitated or deceased person and, overall, thoroughly administer an estate.
WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO? First, update your documents to insert the appropriate directions about digital assets and accounts. Second, make sure you have an up-to-date list of account information, account log-in data, and passwords available for your Agents and Executors.
Keep on Surfing!!! But securely.