We have all become more reliant on digital living. We use the internet for things like banking, communication, storage, taxes, and many other critical aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, if a loved one dies without adequate planning, accessing the digital assets of a loved one after they have passed away can be fraught with difficulties. The introduction of new cybersecurity methods like fingerprint technology has resulted in even more difficulties in accessing deceased loved ones’ digital accounts. Effective January 2021, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act helps address frequent challenges encountered by fiduciaries in accessing a deceased person’s accounts. The following is some helpful information for those trying to access their loved ones’ digital assets after death.
Follow Some General Steps
Different digital accounts have different requirements, but that there are some general guidelines that you can follow to prepare to access this information. Some of these helpful steps include:
- Contact either the county clerk or state office where the loved one died so you can obtain a copy of that person’s death record. Sometimes, a fee is required.
- Check the access rules of the digital site that you plan on accessing. Many digital services have automated systems to help access or close a deceased person’s account.
- Some companies require a person to provide additional details about the deceased individual. In these situations, having things like financial statements, identification documents, and other critical paperwork can prove helpful.
- It is a good idea to obtain a letter of testamentary, which refers to a legal document that establishes a person has the authority to make decisions for an estate. If a person is named as an executor, that individual will be required to submit forms to probate court.
Understand the Challenges if the Deceased Person Was an Apple User
Access to a deceased person’s Apple account can provide a person with various details including photographs. To protect the privacy of customers who pass away, Apple requires a court order before granting an individual access to a deceased individual’s iCloud account. Apple’s privacy protection policies require a person to obtain a court order to open an iCloud account. To access a person’s Apple account, the following information is needed:
- The name and Apple ID of the deceased person
- The full name of the individual who is requesting access to the deceased person’s account
- Confirmation that the deceased individual was the user of all the accounts associated with the Apple ID in question
- Legal consent for the person requesting the information to act as the deceased individual’s personal representative
- Proof from a court of law that Apple is required to provide access to the account
Anticipate Common Obstacles With Digital Accounts
Various issues can greatly complicate the process of accessing a deceased loved one’s digital accounts. For one, Terms of Service agreements often limit who can access an account or what content can be recovered from digital accounts. Other times, a party might be unable to obtain a critical piece of information required to access the deceased individual’s account.
Speak With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Navigating end-of-life issues is fraught with legal challenges, but an experienced estate planning attorney can have help with any questions that you might have. If you need the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, do not hesitate to contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.