We as a society are utilizing various websites to handle practically all of our financial affairs these days. It is critical that when working on your estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, and power of attorneys that you also organize your various usernames and passwords for the websites and devices that you use so that your loved ones (especially the persons who are named as your power of attorney and executor) can find them if you are incapacitated or after you pass away. This will allow these loved ones to access these websites and devices that may have asset and debt information, photos, emails and other personal information in order to make their lives easier when administering your estate. There are a number of ways to organize these items and, you can even purchase phone apps to store all of this information for you in one place. Even if you simply create a handwritten list and update it when a username or password changes, that is better than nothing. If you do not create such a list, your loved ones may find themselves in court obtaining a court order to access your Facebook account to obtain the photos you have store on your Facebook site.
You also should look at the specific website you are using and determine if there is a setting where you can allow a specific person to access your information on that website. For example, Facebook has a Legacy Contact setting that can be established where you allow your certain individuals to access your Facebook account after you pass away. In order to establish this setting on Facebook, click on “account”, then click on “settings and privacy”, then click on “settings”, and then click on “memorialization settings” and follow the instructions to establish a legacy contact.
Apple has established a setting where you can set up who your legacy contacts will be after you pass away as well. This feature is for individuals who have at least the 15.2 Apple operating system. In order to establish this legacy setting, you will need to go to your “settings”, then click on the setting with your name, Apple ID, etc., then click “Password & Security”, and then click “Legacy Contact”. Follow the instructions to establish a Legacy Contact. This will then allow you to name an individual who will have access to all of your information on your Apple devices.
Therefore, when establishing your estate plan, you should also make sure that you allow your loved ones that you select to be able to access information on your various internet sites as well as your devices by following the internet site and/or device settings and naming those individuals as legacy contacts. Those legacy contacts will then be able to access the information that you have on those various sites and devices.
Note: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.
James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.
405 Chauncey Avenue NW
New Philadelphia, OH 44663