Legal Blog

Weekly Scenario: What Becomes of a Deceased Person’s Online Accounts

Question: You have referenced so called ‘digital’ assets in some of your blogs such as giving an agent authority over such assets in a power of attorney.  However I’d like to know what becomes of a deceased person’s online accounts (Twitter, email, facebook) after death?  Who has access to these accounts and what type of access is generally granted Answer:  There is no uniform legislation in place today which answers the question as to what should become of a decedent’s online accounts.  However, very recently a uniform law committee which designs uniform law across the board endorsed a plan to address the question.  The plan will give individuals access to, but no control over  the deceased person’s digital accounts unless the person’s Will says otherwise.  This is a very significant step in the estate planning world when it comes to the universe of the digital afterlife. This is interesting news as this question has never been clearly addressed.  It seems then that state law would trump a web site’s user agreements/privacy policies that may otherwise prohibit people from accessing an online or digital account.  The legislation would have to be adopted by each of the separate states.  But if these law do pass, state law should override the website user’s privacy policies that would otherwise prevent an executor, administrator or family member from accessing an account that doesn’t belong to them. Comment:  As recently reported by the Washington Post, Delaware became the first state to grant members of a decedent’s family complete control over a person’s digital accounts.  The article reports that Delaware has already passed such a law.  So now just as executors (in Delaware) have access to physical documents, the same level of access will be granted to digital type assets As always, if you have questions or would like to know more about estate plans and estate administration  please contact Steven E. Shane at:

Steve Shane Head Shot for | 301.575.0313.

Steve provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.

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