As a society, individuals are creating and using digital data more than ever before. It has been said that between the years of 2012 and 2014, humans produce more data than human civilization has ever produced in the history of time before that. In California, after a person passes away, the executor may need to have access to a person’s various digital accounts. Estate administration can possibly be eased if a person specifies instructions for handling these accounts in the will.
Since the phenomenon is relatively new, the law is still catching up with technology. Recently, a group of lawyers recommended a draft uniform document stating that a person should be able to specify in a will what happens with the digital assets after death. At least 39 states have adopted the uniform document, and several more are considering laws on this matter in the upcoming year.
While social media accounts are often collections of memories and pictures, email accounts contain important gateways to financial information and documents. Some email providers are known to delete the account and deny access after a person’s death, but if an executor can access the email, the job of handling the financial part of the estate can be easier. Protecting privacy can be important, though it is generally understood that a deceased individual no longer has privacy that needs protecting, and allowing access to these accounts can expedite the handling of the estate.
When considering estate administration, remember that the person handling this task will likely need to gain access to several types of digital assets. A provision in the will can make this task considerably easier. In California, a person considering creating a will may choose to do so with the help of an estate planning attorney.
Source: Scientific American, “Estate Planning for Your Digital Assets“, Natalie Banta, Feb. 7, 2018