What Happens to Your E-mail and Digital Information If You Die?

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As online account management becomes more pervasive in our society, and in turn, paper records become obsolete, it is important to consider keeping in a safe place a record of all of your accounts and the attendant identification numbers/codes and passwords so that if something catastrophic occurs, your family members and/or trusted representatives have the ability to access your accounts and information without too much difficulty.

For example, when someone passes away, an estate is created and one of the primary responsibilities of the executor is to inventory the assets of the estate. Prior to this digital age, that typically involved monitoring the mail to review statements of accounts that arrived each month. Online statements have replaced paper statements, and without access to email accounts or direct access to financial institutions, these accounts could be overlooked. If someone becomes disabled, and is unable to communicate his password protected information, it could be unduly burdensome to unlock this critical information.

You should consider (1) checking your Internet service provider’s privacy policy following a death, (2) making sure a trusted family member or representative has access to this protected information to identify and access these accounts, (3) backing up digital records regularly, especially if they have monetary value and (4) providing special instructions to family members or in estate planning documents as to the treatment of your digital property.

As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

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