Is Your Digital Estate Yours When You're Gone?
Pop Quiz: When you pass away who owns your Facebook account?
- Your surviving spouse
- Your pet
If you guessed Facebook, you are right!!! We asked a few of our trusted attorney friends what rights a surviving spouse had to their recently deceased spouse’s multitude of online accounts. We received consistent answers across the board, and the most simplistic answer is eye-opening:
“A surviving spouse has no rights to a deceased spouse’s online accounts as a default (nor does any other family member or heir).”
Wow! So what can we do proactively to relieve an obvious additional burden (multiplied by the number of accounts)???
The first thing we can do is organize all of those accounts with their corresponding websites, usernames, and passwords using a secure resource like LastPass. A year or two before I knew about this fact, I organized my accounts because I was curious how big the number was. I came up with about 125 personal online accounts and 50 or so business accounts. At first I was amazed, but after reading back through them all, I didn’t think it was as outlandish as that number sounds at first glance. Our lives are highly digitized these days.
The second step we need to take is to update our estate planning documents to give the executor of our wills and/or the agent under our power of attorney the authority to access our digital assets.
Don’t burden your family with tracking down all of your online accounts. Get them organized and legally document who controls them after you’re gone.