Most people in Los Angeles consider all of their financial assets and personal property when they draw up a will or trust. But readers may not realize that some things cannot be passed on, such as Internet-based data like email and social media profiles.
That may seem relatively trivial at first. After all, once we are gone, our online communications or online persona may not seem to matter very much anymore compared with our financial assets. But if you do not take action on passing on these accounts, family members who wish to view your online persona like email, text messages or Facebook page after you die may not be able to do so.
That is because when you sign up for an Internet-based service like an email address, you obtain a license to use that address from the provider. In other words, you do not own that email account and therefore cannot include access rights to that account in a will or trust. Perhaps surprisingly, this is also true for digital media you have paid for, such as music files from Amazon.
Some states have passed laws helping a decedent’s loved ones to get access to his or her digital data, but the laws can be hard to enforce when the company providing the service is based in California, such as Apple. Experts suggest that people who want their family to be able to read their email or text messages after they die create a list of passwords. That password list should be kept separate from a will or trust because those documents are public, meaning they could be accessed by people you may not want getting into your accounts.
Source: WXYZ-TV, “How do you prepare for your digital afterlife?” Feb. 11, 2013