With the ever growing popularity of the Internet, important documents are no longer stored solely in safety deposit boxes. Increasingly, financial management is performed online and records are stored on a computer hard drive. In addition to online bank accounts, your digital assets could include business documents, online profiles and auctions, and family photos.
This means that things can become tricky for family members when someone becomes mentally incapacitated or passes away. How would one access those online bank accounts? What should be done about those social networking site profiles?
Consider appointing a ”digital executor” to handle such needs. The digital executor should be someone who is both trustworthy and digitally savvy. It’s a good idea to provide such a person with a list of usernames and passwords to all important accounts. This list could be printed out or burned onto a CD and given to an attorney or stored in a location to which only the digital executor has access. It is also beneficial to provide this person with instructions about whether certain accounts should be deleted, altered in some way, or passed on to heirs.
While the courts offer centuries of legal precedent concerning real property and paper documents, there are many gray areas when it comes to online recordkeeping. Although existing family members may be able to gain access to online accounts after the owner passes on, the situation can be trickier from a legal perspective if the person is mentally incapacitated. To help avoid any potential problems, it is best to consult your attorney about handling these important details.