What happens to your online accounts when you die?

These days, every move we make has a digital component. Our bank accounts and bills are online. We put our memories on photo-sharing websites and even share our thoughts with hundreds of people on Instagram or Facebook.

We need an account to engage in these activities, and each account has an ID and password. We are told this information should not be stored online or written down where it is easily found. These cryptic combos of uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols may be our best-kept secrets.

But what happens when we die or become incapacitated? A fiduciary, trustee, or executor may need to access those accounts, but how?

what happens to your online accounts when you die

How to designate a successor for your online assets

Draft a Power of Attorney (POA) to name someone you trust to manage your online assets if you’re incapacitated or to access online accounts after death. Your POA designee may be able to access your social media, online store, online banking, stock trading (including cryptocurrency), or gambling accounts.

In addition to the durable POA, your representative may need a digital asset authorization and consent form to access and manage certain accounts.

Simply giving your password to your will executor or a trusted friend may not be enough to permit them to manage your online assets legally. Whatever that individual does must comply with the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA). This law imposes a fiduciary duty and a duty of care on the named representative to act in your best interests.

Your designated fiduciary may access your online assets and files, per RUFADAA, and manage your digital currency. However, the permissions granted by RUFADAA don’t extend to your texts, emails, social media, or other online communication. You must grant explicit permission to access your online communications to someone in your POA or will.

Tips for keeping an inventory of your online accounts

It’s becoming increasingly important for us to think about our digital afterlife. Whether it is access to your financial records or our social media accounts, it is never too early to consider how your online affairs will be handled by someone else.

A good first step is to take inventory of all your accounts. Decide which are most important and must be handled by someone else. Collect all your passwords and create a plan for someone to access them if necessary.

It’s also wise to decide what you want done. Do you want your Facebook page deactivated if you die or kept up as a memorial? You should also become familiar with the default terms of your accounts and whether they will be frozen or deleted after a time. If you already have an estate plan, consider how your online records will figure into it.

Younger people tend to have a larger online presence. They are also much less likely to plan for the worst. But these steps are important at any age because you never know when your real-life status will change to the point that you can not decide for yourself.

What happens if I don’t account for my online assets?

What happens to the asset depends on what kind of asset it is. The issuing entity may eventually cancel gaming credits, loyalty points, etc. Online photo storage or online libraries may have a time limit on media storage, and after the term expires, the media may be deleted. If you’re storing irreplaceable photos online, your family may be unable to access them unless you make provisions permitting someone to use that account.

Online assets with an objective monetary value, like an online bank account or crypto wallet, may be bequeathed in the same manner as “physical” assets. Some may have a “transfer on death” benefit, while other online accounts may need to be specifically designated to someone in your will.

Even if someone has your login and password information for online accounts, they may not legally be able to withdraw or transfer funds without certain documents.

Ready to protect your assets and legacy? We can help.

Are you worried about what happens to online accounts when you die? Your estate representative or POA designee will need legal documents to manage your online assets or distribute them as you wish after you pass away.

At Colorado Estate Matters, we keep abreast of changes to the law that can impact your online assets and help you create an estate plan for your virtual assets. Call us today at (303) 713-9147 for a free consultation.

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