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Digital estate planning: you might want to get going on that

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2017 | Estate Planning, Firm News

Chances are that a reference even a few short years ago to the “digital afterlife” would have simply befuddled a listener.

That is much less likely these days, though, given an online world that is both vast and comprehensive.

That realm is shared to some extent by billions of people, who have accounts relating to things like finances, social interactions and other wide-ranging subject matter. Are you perhaps checking out your Facebook page right now while simultaneously scanning this blog post?

A recent national news article spotlighting the online realm references the term “digital assets,” which includes all of a person’s accounts and passwords.

Here’s a question: What happens to those when a user dies?

The publication Slate notes what many people in Arkansas and elsewhere might reasonably believe. Namely, that is that an estate executor or personal representative can readily access accounts with known information or seek to do so by contacting a service provider.

It can sometimes work out that way, but frequently not. Slate points out that, while a party who passed away might have given another person account details enabling access, an Internet service provider might deem attempted access as a breach of its privacy terms. And, additionally, one or more state laws might weigh in on the subject.

Bottom line: the so-called digital afterlife can be murky, especially for people attempting to access a dead loved one’s online accounts with permission and in good faith.

That reality makes it important for a planner to be timely and thorough about taking an inventory of online accounts and passwords, and ensuring that a designated third party has unfettered permission to access them.

As Slate notes, any individual seeking to promote that goal might want “to do a little digital estate planning right now.”


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