With more people than ever with personal information online, Texans may have questions about how to incorporate this information into their estate plan. Can another person take over their accounts after they pass away? Even if someone provides their account information to another, can they legally access the accounts? As people have different preferences over how their social media, email, and financial accounts are handled, the below information can be useful for Texans navigating the estate planning process. Planning ahead and updating this access and estate plans regularly can make life easier for loved ones after they pass away.
Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act
Texas, along with other states, provides access to online accounts to a person’s legal representative if they meet one of two conditions, per the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. First, the deceased must have activated a setting within their online account that allows disclosure of the account upon their death, or the deceased’s will must explicitly allow their representative to access their online accounts. Without either of these conditions, the representative cannot access the online accounts, even if they have been given the login information.
To meet the first condition—activating a setting within the online account—many social media platforms will allow individuals to name a “legacy contact,” which provides them with access to the account if the account holder passes away. However, it is better to include this information in an estate plan and be explicit about what accounts—be it social media, financial accounts or others—the estate’s legal representative can access.
Storing Digital Account Information
For individuals who decide they want a legal representative to be able to access their online accounts after their death, it is important they store usernames and passwords in a safe place. There are a few approaches to keeping this information safe, including writing down usernames and passwords on paper and keeping it in a locked location. While this may seem old-fashioned, letting the legal representative know about the information’s location may be easier than storing this information online. However, for individuals who would prefer to keep this information online, there are some Password Manager websites that can discretely store this information. Additionally, people can keep their username and password list stored with other estate planning documents to ensure easy access for the estate’s executor.
Because incorporating online accounts is a new part of estate planning, individuals should speak to an experienced estate planning attorney about this process.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one has questions about incorporating online accounts into your estate plan, contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We also can assist Texans with creating an estate plan for the first time, or have questions about amending your estate plan, we are here to help. Estate planning should not be a stressful process—despite technical changes that may impact your outlook and plans. To schedule a free, initial consultation and to speak with one of our attorneys, give us a call today at 713-333-8900.