ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Don't Forget to Pass on Passwords

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal provides a timely estate planning reminder.

Elder law attorneys assist individuals with their wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and advance medical directives. They also discuss issues such as life and long-term care insurance, financial planning, and funeral arrangements. In this electronic age, individuals should also leave instructions to their agents and their survivors regarding access to online accounts, including passwords.

More people conduct financial business online than ever before, creating varied passwords for all accounts. Some people never write down this information and change passwords frequently. This process works well while someone is alive, but it can create havoc if the person becomes incapacitated or dies. It is more important than ever that individuals leave a list of account numbers along with the access IDs and electronic passwords. This is particularly true if a person is receiving account statements by e-mail rather than by regular mail. For example, the family of a deceased 30 year old man could not determine what financial accounts needed to be closed until they could access his e-mail account. The family had to provide a court order to the decedent’s Internet service provider in order to gain access to his account. In the case of an incapacitated person without a power of attorney, a guardian or conservator may have to be appointed to have access to the electronic records, and even if a guardian or conservator is appointed, a specific court order may be required to access the information. Individuals may also have photos on a website such as Kodak Gallery or Shutterfly that the family wants to save.

Many Internet-based providers have guidelines to help family members unravel the electronic accounts in the absence of a password. America Online (AOL) requires a copy of an individual’s certificate of death, and proof that another is authorized to administer the estate, before turning over an account to a survivor. EBay requires similar documentation in order for a survivor to access a decedent’s eBay seller’s account. EBay will not, however, grant access to an eBay buyer’s account. Google requires the same documentation as AOL for access to a Gmail account, but it also requires an e-mail that the decedent, using the Gmail account in question, had contacted the survivor on any topic during the decedent’s lifetime.

Facebook puts the deceased person’s profile in a “memorial state” when it is informed of a user’s death. The login and password will not be provided to anyone, but Facebook will respond to requests from the immediate family to remove the profile.

Individuals should review their electronic mail and financial accounts, and make a list of the accounts and passwords for their own use. The list should be stored in a safe place, and they should also ensure that their family members know how to access the list in the event of their death or incapacity.

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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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