Susan Friedman, of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz LLP, has made available for download her article, “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Online Accounts and Estate Planning”, published in JDSUPRA. The abstract is as follows:
There are many factors to consider when planning your estate in the event of your incapacitation or death. While discussions regarding traditional assets are crucial in the planning process, other factors should also be taken into consideration, such as plans for digital assets and online accounts. Here are some common questions and key takeaways regarding online accounts and estate planning.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY ONLINE ACCOUNTS SUCH AS SOCIAL MEDIA, EMAIL, DIGITAL MUSIC AND BANK ACCOUNTS?
The answer to this question depends on many different factors and surprisingly, an Executor, Personal Representative, or Trustee does not automatically have access to all of the deceased person’s online accounts. In many states, the decedent must have provided specific consent. Many states, including Ohio, have adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADA) which provides access to online accounts to the legal representative if:
1. the decedent activated a setting within the online account which provides direction to disclose the account contents upon death; or
2.the decedent’s will specifically allows the legal representative to access online accounts.
Without one of these actions prior to death, the legal representative may not receive access to electronic communications unless the terms of service governing the account allow it. Even if a loved one passes away and a family member has all of their usernames and passwords, the family member cannot legally access the online accounts and must refer to either the will or direction granted within the account as RUFADA provides. Some online account services provide for digital legacy including Apple and Facebook.
Facebook for example, allows the user to set up a “legacy contact” who will have limited access to the account to finish management of the account and make it a memorial to the user. The named legacy contact can write a pinned post to the profile and share a final message. The contact can decide who can see and post tributes and also delete tributes. Additionally, the legacy contact can change who sees tagged posts, remove tags, respond to new friend requests, update the profile picture and cover photo, request the removal of the account, turn off the review posts and tags before they appear in the tribute section if the review was turned on, and download a copy of what was shared on Facebook if this feature was turned on.
Posted by Mallory Wentz, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.