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William S. Fralin, Esq.
Don't Forget To Pass on Passwords
The Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm, PC

Don't Forget To Pass on Passwords

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal provides a timely estate-planning reminder.
Elder law attorneys assist individuals with their wills or trusts, powers of attorney, and advance medical directives. They also discuss issues such as life and long-term care insurance, financial planning, and funeral arrangements. In this electronic age, individuals should also leave instructions to their agents and their survivors regarding access to online accounts, including passwords.
Many Internet-based providers have guidelines to help family members unravel the electronic accounts in the absence of a password. America Online (AOL) requires a copy of an individuals certificate of death, and proof that another is authorized to administer the estate, before turning over an account to a survivor.
EBay requires similar documentation in order for a survivor to access a decedents eBay sellers account. EBay will not, however, grant access to an eBay buyers account. Google requires the same documentation as AOL for access to a Gmail account, but it also requires an e-mail that the decedent, using the Gmail account in question, had contacted the survivor on any topic during the decedents lifetime.
Facebook puts the deceased persons profile in a “memorial state” when it is informed of a users death. The login and password will not be provided to anyone, but Facebook will respond to requests from the immediate family to remove the profile.
Because more persons conduct financial business online, it has become more important than ever that individuals leave a list of account numbers along with the access IDs and electronic passwords.
A family of a deceased 30-year old man could not determine what financial accounts needed to be closed until they could access his e-mail account. The family had to provide a court order to the decedents Internet service provider in order to gain access to his account.
Individuals should review their electronic e-mail and financial accounts, and make a list of the accounts and passwords for their own use. (How many times do we forget our own user IDs and passwords?) They should also ensure that their family members know how to access the accounts in the event of their death.

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