Whether a person runs an online sales business or just sells an occasional personal item, online sales may be in process when the person becomes incapacitated or dies. A good place to start is to monitor the person’s e–mail accounts and text messages for announcements about sales transactions.
If the person has an online business selling goods or services, the business may have a dedicated Web page or a virtual storefront on Ebay, Amazon, or other Internet services. The business may have employees, suppliers, customers, income, and expenses that need urgent attention to avoid breaches of contracts. Timely access to the Internet accounts may be critical to keep the business operating smoothly. If a business entity owns the online accounts, the appropriate business representative could contact the Internet services to gain access to accounts or to reset passwords. If it is a sole proprietorship or the person owns the online accounts outside of the business, the appropriate fiduciary can contact the Internet services to try and gain access or reset passwords. Like any other business, the appropriate representatives should consider whether the business should be continued, sold, or shut down. Even if the business is run solely by the person and only has an Internet storefront, it may need to be listed as a guardianship, conservatorship, probate, or revocable trust asset and listed on an estate tax return if a return is necessary.
Many people buy and sell occasional personal items at an online auction site like Ebay or an online classified ad site like Craigslist. These transactions also may require time–sensitive actions and responses to avoid a breach of contract, which makes planning for access to these online sales accounts critical. Existing offers to sell items may need to be cancelled in light of a person’s incapacity or death, especially if necessary to comply with guardianship, conservatorship, or probate laws and procedures. With online sales, the purchase price for the sale may be transmitted from the buyer to the seller using another Internet service like PayPal. Even if there are no items currently listed for sale, it’s important to check whether the individual has a balance in his PayPal account or accounts at similar online payment services that may need to be listed as a guardianship, conservatorship, probate, or revocable trust asset and listed on an estate tax return if a return is necessary.