Identity Theft Safeguard

Handling digital assets in your estate plan: it’s the Wild West today

Shortly after comedy icon Robin Williams died, his daughter’s Twitter feed filled up with gruesome fake photos of her father. She was forced to temporarily abandon the social media site. As a result of the incident, Twitter was pressured into changing its policy: It now allows family members to request removal of a deceased relative’s online photos.

A good friend of my family passed away two years ago. While cleaning up his home, his brother stumbled upon some papers suggesting his brother had owned a large quantity of bitcoins (virtual currency) at the time of his death. We are now struggling to access the information and document his ownership. It’s an uphill battle, made more complicated because many of the companies and individuals we’re dealing with are located in Australia.

When University of Minnesota freshman Jake Anderson was found dead in a snowbank last year, his distraught parents tried to get access to his social media messages, cell phone data and email, hoping the information might clarify the circumstances of his death. The providers turned down their request. (Click here to see TV clip about this story.)

And then there’s the poster child of all cases, Ajemian v. Yahoo. John Ajemian died in a car accident in 2006. His siblings wanted to access his Yahoo email account password so they could notify friends of his passing. Yahoo denied the request …

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