Digital assets: Who has access rights?


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

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