Minnesota’s KSTP-TV Eyewitness News ran a five-minute video story on May 2, 2013, by Tom Hauser on what happens to your Apple iTunes purchases, e-mail accounts, Facebook account, and other online accounts after you die. I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the story, and Mark Lanterman, CEO and CTO of Computer Forensic Services, was also interviewed. You can read the text story and watch the video story at the following link: http://kstp.com/news/stories/S3020243.shtml
I was also interviewed for an April 30, 2013, story on WNYC public radio by Stan Alcorn. You can read the text of the story and listen to the audio recording at the following link: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newtechcity/blogs/new-tech-city-blog/2013/apr/30/three-barriers-make-it-hard-pass-digital-accounts-after-death/
Technology is changing the way we interact with people and transact business. We are accumulating valuable and important electronic data in our smartphones, computers, and online accounts. We need to plan ahead for our data and online accounts so that our fiduciaries and family members can receive that data after we become incapacitated and after we die.
First, you should make a list of any valuable or important data, online accounts, and digital property. This could be a written list or an electronic list stored in your smartphone, in your computer, or in an online account. Make sure to include where each account or digital property item is, how you access it, and why it’s valuable or important to you. And, make sure to keep the list up-to-date!
Second, you should contact your estate planning attorney to include your digital property in your estate plan. Make sure your estate plan appoints a fiduciary to act on your behalf with respect to your digital property (as well as for all your other property) during incapacity and after death. This may include preparing a durable power of attorney, a will, and a revocable living trust, if appropriate for your situation—please contact your estate planning attorney for tax and legal advice about your specific facts and circumstances. And, make sure your estate plan authorizes the companies that hold your electronic data to release that data to your fiduciaries during your incapacity and after your death.
Planning ahead for your digital property is essential to arrange for full access to your data, to keep estate administration costs down, to provide for a smooth estate administration, and to ensure that none of your valuable or important digital property is overlooked. If you haven’t planned ahead, a computer forensics expert may be able to recover and access data from your smartphone or your computer. But, it may be practically impossible to retrieve the data from your online accounts if you haven’t planned ahead!
Contact your estate planning attorney today to include your digital property in your estate plan!