According to a 2007 study conducted by Microsoft, the average web user has 25 online accounts ranging from social network accounts to banking and financial accounts. In America alone, nearly 72% of American adults have an online presence or use social media sites.
These accounts are a part of the World Wide Web that links almost everyone together, and in our day and age, has become an important component of personal identification. So what happens to these accounts when the owner becomes deceased?
For a while, it was believed that our digital life would live beyond our own—the entire world would have more digital accounts than humans (and we’re very close to that point already)—but many web platforms have now developed policies allowing for the management of accounts after death. For information on how to manage the social media accounts of the deceased, see these articles:
In most cases, the management of social media accounts post-mortem are handled by the legally designated executor since digital assets fall under the umbrella of the Estate. It is highly recommended, especially with online accounts being so widespread but at present possessing patchwork regulations, that digital assets be treated like any other asset by the executor. Depending on what state you live in, the matter of digital asset management may also be further complicated.
At present, 19 states have laws that protect people’s digital assets and what happens to them after you die. Everplans, a digital lockbox and pre-planning service has compiled a list of these for your reference. There are also efforts being made to standardize the way digital assets are handled across the states via the Uniform Law Commission (UFC). But until this legislation is fully adopted, we recommended that if you look into your own state’s laws on how to handle digital assets of the deceased.
To learn more about estate planning and the role of the executor after the death of a loved one, follow this link to our article: After the Funeral – What to Do with a Deceased Person’s Estate, Assets, and Debts.