One aspect of estate planning many individuals neglect is what to do with these online accounts after death. Such accounts are classified as your personal digital property, therefore it is within your rights to deal with them as you please through your estate plan.
Though digital property laws are still in their infancy, most court rulings have favored the rights of heirs to take possession of online accounts after death. However, many online sites resist this transfer for various reasons. If your wishes are documented in a legal estate plan, taking possession of the accounts will be that much easier.
This should include the name of every website, your username, password, and any extra information such as answers to security questions for each. You can create this inventory on a piece of paper, save it on a cd, or leave it on your hard drive, but it is all for naught if you fail to notify your loved ones or Personal Representative where it is located. It is also a good idea to provide a copy to your planning attorney to maintain in your file.
NOTE: Many online accounts are now requiring a security code to be sent by text message. Your Personal Representative will need access to receive the text messages, so you should keep the mobile devices active while the estate is being settled. Be sure they know the passwords to access the devices.
If you have an online savings or investment account but neglect to document it, the asset could become lost money. While financial institutions are still required to mail 1099 forms ever year, keeping detailed records of your online assets will save everyone involved in your estate time and potential future headaches.
Documenting this information allows your loved ones or Personal Representative to more easily pay utilities or bills such as a mortgage should you become disabled or immediately following your death.
Mr. Abraham is an experienced attorney and founding member of the Law Office of Richard K. Abraham. The Sparks, MD office of the firm concentrates its practice in Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate, Medical Assistance (Medicaid), Guardianship, Asset Preservation and Fiduciary Representation.
He is an active member in a number of professional organizations that focus on law, the senior community, and estate planning. He works with clients in Central Maryland, especially in Towson, Hunt Valley, Lutherville/Timonium, Parkville, White Marsh, Bel Air & Northern Baltimore City.
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