Digital estate planning has become a hot button issue in estate planning and technology law. What exactly happens to our digital accounts after we pass away? It depends. Currently, most states do not have laws that would grant executors or others access to digital accounts. This means that access is determined by the terms and conditions and privacy policies of the technology companies that operate the websites the accounts are on. This has caused headaches for many families attempting to wrap up a loved one's digital affairs.
The Uniform Law Commission has come up with a plan called the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act that, if adopted by the states, would end this problem. However as National Public Radiopoints out, in “A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We're Gone,” the idea is not popular with all technology companies. The Commission states that its proposal would give an executor access to accounts in the same way that a family has access to real world items, such as photographs and letters. However, technology companies say the proposal could create privacy concerns for third parties as their communications with the deceased would be accessible.
It is clear that something needs to be done about the problem with a deceased's digital accounts. Some technology companies, such as Yahoo Japan, have taken steps to allow account holders to choose who has access to what after they pass away. Other companies are waiting for legal solutions. Still others are satisfied with the current landscape. Regardless what happens in the future on the legal side, how your digital accounts will be handled is something that you need to plan for on the practical side in your estate plan.
Reference: National Public Radio – NPR (July 23, 2014) “A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We're Gone”