Online programs such as Google Inactive Account Manager, Legacy Locker, and Estate Map, offer services including the storage of electronic passwords, post-death management of accounts, and delivery to a “digital estate trustee” of related information.
Surviving loved ones frequently are faced with challenges when trying to access or delete online accounts under the name of a deceased person. What further complicates the matter is that few jurisdictions have rules with respect to the release of information required to access to family members or friends, absent a court order. Further, the policies of social media companies differ with respect to what documentation they require in order to facilitate access to, or removal of, digital information stored within a computer or the internet.
However, a newly-developed estate planning tool is now available to all smartphone users. The beta version of Estate Assist launched on October 1, 2014. This program features the storage of online passwords, including log-in information for any social media accounts, online login information for paperless bank accounts, and digital medical records, which can all be accessed remotely.
Estate Assist alerts a person selected by the user that an Estate Assist account exists. When that person verifies that the user has died, the program will release information regarding accounts and digital documents.
Of course, using programs like Estate Assist to help transfer information with respect to information stored online do not represent a substitute to lawyer-assisted estate planning. However, such programs may be useful and accessible supplements to a comprehensive estate plan, which includes a Last Will and Testament that may also address the issue of digital assets.
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