Berman & Asbel, LLP

Estate administration requires access to online accounts

In the age of the Internet, the number and types of accounts and services that are accessed electronically are more common than not. This is why, now more than ever before, it has become extremely important to ensure that Pennsylvania residents keep an up-to-date inventory list of all accounts and corresponding passwords as part of their estate planning.

Overlooking this fact can make it very difficult for an administrator, spouse or executor of an estate to gather all of the deceased's assets and distribute their value to the intended beneficiaries. This is because without knowledge of these accounts existing in Cyberspace, some valuable assets may be lost forever. Though it may be possible to hire an IT expert in order to find the accounts and gain access, this is obviously not the preferred route.

Even in the case in which the administrator has knowledge of potential accounts, not having access to them can make things very difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes it will even be necessary to require a court order to gain access to the information for fear of breaking federal anti-hacking laws or other security measures and agreements.

So how can Pennsylvania residents help their heirs to access and transfer their virtual property after they pass on? Thoughtfully and carefully organizing all digital or virtual assets and information, even those that are considered to have low value such as social media accounts, should be easily accessible to the administrator of an estate, and should be taken into account as part of one's estate plan.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "With Estate Planning, Don't Forget Virtual Assets," July 28, 2012

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