I just read an article which talks about the need to leave information about your online accounts so your heirs will know what they have to deal with after you die. It’s well worth reading for the information it provides. What it doesn’t tell you is exactly what you have to do to close out or memorialize those accounts. Grave Robbers, our book about how to prevent identity theft of the deceased, does. In addition, there’s information on our site about how to handle the most popular digital sites.
Digital assets are making dying even more complicated. As more and more of our life is portrayed in a digital form, a key question is evolving in the legal community: “Who Owns Your Digital Assets When You Die?”
The New York Times posted an interesting article regarding your digital assets, “Cyperspace When You Are Dead.”
Today, there are no common policies or laws covering the disposition of your digital assets when you die. In fact, each Internet Service Provider sets their own policy. Google is different than Facebook. Facebook is different than Yahoo. In some instances, businesses may find they can’t get access to hosted accounts because someone doesn’t leave behind their passwords. You can find out the policies regarding your digital assets at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Comcast, etc. at diesmart.com.
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There are three links below. The first link is a download of the form you can use to notify the state Department of Motor Vehicles of the death. The second link is a download of the forms you can use to request a death flag be added to the decedent’s credit files. The third link provides information to use for cancelling email and social media accounts.
Part 1: Department of Motor Vehicles notification form
Click on the name of the state in which the decedent’s driver license was issued. You will be linked to the form you use to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once you complete the form, print and sign it. Mail the signed form and any necessary attachments to the address listed for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Part 2. Request the credit reporting agencies add a death flag.
The link will download the forms you need to use to request that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion add a death flag to the decedent’s credit records. Once you complete the forms print and sign them. Mail the signed form and any necessary attachments to each credit agency.
Part 3. Internet Service Provider Policies.
Each Internet Service Provider establishes rules and procedures for handling the account of the decedent. A summary of these rules and procedures can be found in the DieSmart Digital Asset reference table.
KATHY: IBUTTON AT BOTTOM OF PAGE.
MIKE: FACT FORMATTING.
A big problem may exist for your family if they want access the digital assets you stored on a hosted site.
Q. How will your spouse or executor gain access to e-mail or other business processes stored on hosted sites?
A. If you own a small business and your accounting or sales procedures are managed on hosted web sites (for instance Yahoo, Google, eBay, etc.), it is critical someone knows how to access these accounts. Digital assets are considered personal property. There are no default laws determining who has rights to access these assets or statutes an Internet Service Provider (ISP) must follow when someone dies.
The result: Each ISP has set its own policies on whether to provide passwords or user IDs to your spouse, executor or trustee when you die. Some ISPs may not.
If you work in a small business, your chief executive officer or chief financial officer may not be able to access company files without your passwords.
When you set up accounts on hosted services, ask what their policy is regarding user IDs and passwords when someone dies. Plan accordingly. Create and maintain a list of URLs, user IDs and passwords for important data.
Fact: Internet service provider policies.
AOL. If you have an AOL e-mail account, your executor or trustee can send a letter to AOL requesting your user ID and password, accompanied by a certified copy of your death certificate. AOL will then disclose your user ID and password.
EBAY (Seller). Same as AOL.
EBAY (Buyer). No access.
YAHOO. Yahoo will not provide anyone with your user ID and password when you die. Your executor, spouse or business partner will not be able to obtain your user IDs and passwords for any e-mail or other accounting or sales data hosted on their sites.
MSN. If you have an e-mail account with Microsoft, Microsoft will give your executor or spouse access to your address book and instant messaging contacts. They will not disclose your user ID and password. Your e-mail messages can’t be read or responded to by anyone who does not know your user ID or password.
ibutton: Internet Service Provider Password Policies diesmart.com/ibutton
KATHY: LOT OF OVERLAP WITH PERSONAL PROPERTY: DOCUMENT WHAT YOU OWN. ALSO, NOT FINISHED.
A recent article in USA Today stated that unclaimed property is now the third largest source of revenue for state government. States are holding $33 billion of unclaimed property. Why? Because someone forgot they owned it or they died without telling someone else they owned it.
Pay attention! Your personal property and your digital assets are not governed by state law and do not have automatic inheritance rights. Unlike your real estate or your bank accounts, there are no default laws defining who inherits this property or has rights to this property. Documenting what you own and what you owe is imperative.
It is equally important to document how to access your electronic financial records or other digital assets. Many of us routinely store personal and financial information on a computer or on a hosted web site. Some of us don’t even keep paper records. Unless you tell someone how to access this information, they may not be able to do so.
Q. WHY DO BANKS REPORT MONEY IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT AS AN UNCLAIMED ASSET?
Q. WHO HAS RIGHTS TO YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS WHEN YOU DIE?
Q. WHO WILL INHERIT AUNT ELEANOR’S PIE PLATE?
Q. WHERE SHOULD YOU STORE YOUR LEGAL DOCUMENTS?