People in Texas and throughout the country are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide for their online files and “assets” in their estate plan. At the least, many people want to assure that their personal representative has the legal authority to either maintain, modify or shut down their online pages and accounts. For some online matters, the testator will provide in his or her last will that the personal representative may take certain requested actions and make certain specified dispositions.
One general option that may be effective is to give one’s personal representative the power to access all of his or her online accounts in order to carry out the decedent’s wishes. The types of accounts to be accessed may include social media, commercial, social, financial and government benefits. Additionally, records of one’s health care insurance details and choices may be primarily located online, along with similarly important financial records.
There are now few areas of life that do not have a primary reference point on the Internet. That fact is responsible for a continuing change in some of the most basic social and economic patterns of one’s life. The list of things to be looked into, processed, changed, removed or handled on the Internet is becoming almost endless. In some cases, without a written grant of authority from the decedent, companies will not cooperate in allowing the termination or modification of his or her page or website.
Some online investment accounts or other financial matters may be set up for digital access only; we see increasing instances in Texas and elsewhere where assets are held or evidenced online but not on paper. The most effective method of taking care of this potential problem is to meet with one’s estate planning attorney and make sure that the necessary preparations are established and articulated in writing. Some states are looking at protective legislation, but the only way to assure that each matter is specifically addressed to the individual’s wishes is to provide for it in one’s last will and testament.
Source: nj1015.com, “When you die, your online presence doesn’t“, Dino Flammia, Nov. 11, 2015