After you pass away, you will almost certainly leave behind an estate that must be administered, meaning that someone will have to step in and make sure your remaining debts are paid and your assets are appropriately distributed to your beneficiaries. This person will be called a personal representative or an executor. Although the advent of the digital age makes many things more simple while you are alive, following your death, digital assets can be difficult to access and transfer for your personal representative.
During their lives, people often access bank accounts, investments, and other types of accounts online. Following one’s death, however, it may be helpful for a personal representative to access usernames and passwords so they can immediately access those accounts after a loved one’s death. Given the very important of security, however, people should not include sensitive username and password information in a will, as wills become public record through the probate process. It’s important to work with an attorney to determine how to plan how to securely provide this information to a personal representative following death.
The issue of digital assets such as social media accounts and emails has been surrounded by some confusion and controversy. Service providers previously had terms and conditions making the accounts of a deceased person non-transferrable. That mean that after the death of a loved one, personal representatives were unable to access and close these accounts. In 2016, Minnesota passed a revised version of a set of laws called the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act (“UFADA”). The UFADA provides that if a person is properly appointed as the personal representative of the deceased, then that personal representative has the same rights to access online accounts as the deceased did prior to death. This law overrides terms of service for various companies that previously made it impossible or extremely difficult for anyone other than the deceased to access accounts.
There are some real potential pitfalls in organizing one’s digital life as a part of preparing an estate plan, and getting it right requires the attention of an experienced attorney. Call us today at 651-464-7292 to talk about your estate planning needs.