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Digital Life After Death

January 31, 2017

One modern aspect of estate planning that can get overlooked is what happens to a person’s online accounts after they die. If left unmentioned in your estate planning documents, a person’s executor, spouse, or other beneficiary may be unable to access a decedent’s accounts.

While access to some online accounts may seem trivial, some online accounts may hold assets that need to be distributed to beneficiaries or debts that need to be repaid. If left unnoticed, debt in an online account may needlessly accrue interest that will have to be repaid by the estate. Online subscription services and preordered purchases may need to be cancelled. A dormant financial account could also be a target for identity theft, which can also significantly cost a person’s estate.

Non-financial, online accounts also present planning concerns. Social media platforms, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., have different policies regarding what do with accounts of the deceased. Some present the option to have the account memorialized, which would notify any visitors to a person’s page of their passing, while others allow for an account to be deleted altogether. Some online services may not allow access to a decedent’s account at all if the login credentials and/or password are lost.

Email and online data storage services also have a growing significance in people’s lives. Some smartphones store a person’s photographs and home movies in online cloud services. Computers and digital devices can store documents online, rather than directly on the device. People should consider what they want done with this sort of data and information. Do they want certain accounts passed on to someone else? Are there accounts they just want deleted completely?

To help ensure that an estate executor has the tools necessary to manage a person’s online accounts after death, estate planning documents should contain specific language mandating who should have access to those online accounts, and if desired, what should be done with those online accounts. Instructions on how to access passwords should be detailed and updated when necessary.

To ensure that your estate planning documents plan for dealing with your online presence, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.

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Martha C. Brown & Associates, LLC assist clients with Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Franklin County and the surrounding areas including Arnold, Ballwin, Barnhart, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Black Jack, Bonne Terre, Brentwood, Bridgeton, Cedar Hill, Chesterfield, Clayton, Crestwood, Creve Coeur, Crystal City, Des Peres, DeSoto, Ellisville, Farmington, Fenton, Festus, Ferguson, Florissant, Fredericktown, Frontenac, Hazelwood, Herculaneum, High Ridge, Hillsboro, House Springs, Imperial, Kirkwood, Ladue, Lake St. Louis, Manchester, Maplewood, Maryland Heights, Mehlville, Normandy, O'Fallon, Olivette, Pacific, Pevely, Richmond Heights, St. Ann, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Peters, Ste. Genevieve, Sunset Hills, Town & Country, University City, Union, Valley Park, Washington, Webster Groves, Wentzville , Wildwood.