How To Gain Access Of A Decedents Online Accounts
and Why That is More Important Than Ever Before.

The idea of going paperless continues to spread across
the United States. More and more individuals have email accounts,
use social media, and pay various bills all online. However, lawmakers
have not caught up to the trend of “going green” or being digitally social,
which leaves surviving loved ones struggling to gain access to these 
various online accounts. Many estate policies of online accounts often 
grant loved ones access to the decedent’s online accounts,
but privacy laws prevent this from actually happening. 

    To try and combat this problem some individuals have
started to keep a log of their online usernames and passwords.
There are also various services such as mSecure, SecureSafe,
and LegacyLocker that individuals are using to keep all their online
information in one secure location. Therefore, upon the death of the individual,
a family member would be able to access the usernames and passwords
for their online accounts without any practical trouble. Overall,
keeping a log or using a password safety service seems to be the most
practical way to avoid being locked out of a decedent’s online accounts. 

And some state laws specifically authorize executors or trustees
to have such access. However, if a log or memo is not left behind,
family members of a decedent have no choice but to follow online
guidelines set forth by each individual company or state law.
These guidelines can be stringent making it difficult to follow and gain
access to the online accounts. For instance, many companies require
a court order in order to gain access and other pertinent information
regarding the account.

 Listed below is information regarding how major online 
companies control the access of decedent’s accounts:
1.    Google:
a.    Will not disclose any passwords on a decedent’s account.
b.    Will not deactivate a decedent’s account without having a court order.
c.    It will however, provide information to loved ones if Google
receives proof of death, i.e. death certificate, or court order.

2.    Facebook:
a.    Facebook will not disclose any passwords.
b.    Will deactivate and remove an account upon a family’s request.
c.    If notified, Facebook will “memorialize” an account.  This means
that friends will still be able to post to a Facebook page
but no one will ever be allowed to log into the account.
d.    Requests a court order to release any contents of the
account or further information. 

3.    Yahoo:
a.    Will not disclose any passwords.
b.    Upon receiving a death certificate, Yahoo will deactivate
an account.

4.    Microsoft:
a.    Will not disclose any passwords or transfer ownership.
b.    Will terminate account if requested by loved ones.
c.    Allows family members who have been permitted
by the decedent to use their password to gain access. 
d.    Will give contents of account, if Microsoft receives
appropriate documentation.

5.    Twitter:
a.    Will not disclose any passwords.
b.    Will only release account information if
accompanied by a court order.
c.    If Twitter receives a death certificate,
they will deactivate the account.

6.    Tumblr:
a.    If immediate family requests the account be removed, it will do so.
b.    Will only disclose contents of account if they receive a court order.
c.    Will not disclose any passwords. 

7.    LinkedIn:
a.    Will not transfer or disclose any passwords.
b.    If email address is known, LinkedIn will hide 
account information from the public. 
c. Upon specific request, LinkedIn will delete account.

Of course, there are numerous other issues including 
digital access to bank accounts, who owns club memberships,
airline credit card miles and point accounts, and other related matters.

Be sure to contact your estate planning lawyer
to discuss these tricky issues before you complete
you next will, trust, or memo regarding digital access.
For more information,
please contact David M. Frees, III at 888-573-7407.

David M. Frees, III
Connect with me
Attorney, Speaker and Author