What happens to digital accounts and assets after a person passes away has become a popular subject. One thing that does not get mentioned very often is that it could be a criminal act for people to access your accounts after you are gone.
It can be very difficult for your family members to gain access to your email accounts and social media accounts after you pass away. It can be even more difficult for them to gain access to your online financial accounts. For this reason, attorneys always stress that you should plan ahead and make sure you have come up with a good way for someone you trust to access any accounts you have.
Recently on PBS News Hour, another potential problem with access to digital accounts was raised in a segment titled “Dead and Online: What Happens to Your Digital Estate When You Die?” One of the interviewees points out that a family member attempting to gain access to your accounts after you pass away could be in violation of federal privacy laws and computer fraud and abuse laws. It could also be a criminal violation to break the terms of service of the website your family member is trying to gain access to in some circumstances.
As unlikely as it is, a family member trying to gain access to a deceased's accounts may be criminally charged. It is not a good idea to leave it up to chance. You would not want to actually encourage your family to break the law. This is just another reason that you need to plan ahead and come up with a way that someone can access your online accounts after you pass away.
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.
Reference: PBS News Hour (July 12, 2014) “Dead and Online: What Happens to Your Digital Estate When You Die?”