Will Your E-mail Accounts Die With You?

What would happen to your e-mail accounts if you suddenly died? No, it’s not a pleasant thought. But this issue is arising with increasing frequency, estate planning lawyers say. And it’s something of a new frontier.

The law is not known for moving at a terribly relevant pace, especially in the digital age. So, if you are unfamiliar with the notion of a digital estate, think about your online bank accounts, emails, social media and your entire digital presence on the web. Question: what happens to your digital life when your temporal life is ended? This is a question in need of an answer sooner rather than later.

Imagine a world without you in which your heirs cannot access your digital assets. They cannot access your e-mails, either practically or legally, to get to important legal or financial information, whether about bank accounts or friends. Sadly, that is the reality in most scenarios today.

The dilemma of the digital estate and the difficulties facing heirs was taken up by Forbes in a recent article titled “When Heirs Must Battle For Access To E-mail Accounts.

The conflict between the digital and the legal is very real. For example, consider the case of the Ajemian family.

The Forbes article reviews four aspects of this complex, but important area of estate planning:

  1. Beneficiaries for your e-mail.
  2. Shared passwords.
  3. Account hijackers.
  4. Legal tangles.

In one sense, you want your heirs to access all the digital information you and they may need when actually needed. On the other hand, do you want to give them access to every e-mail? Whatever digital information you have and whether you want to make such information available to your heirs is solely your call. The key is to think through this important area of your estate planning and to plan accordingly in this digital age.

Reference: Forbes (December 11, 2013) “When Heirs Must Battle For Access To E-mail Accounts

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