Gaining access to the digital accounts of deceased loved ones is slowly becoming easier. That means that people need to think about what type of access they want to grant as part of their estate planning.
Even just a few years ago, it was almost impossible to gain access to the digital accounts of the deceased. Even when ordered to allow access by judges, tech companies would point to their terms of service and deny that access. This created many problems for families and estate administrators who needed access to those accounts for a variety of reasons. In Maryland, the legislature passed a law which became effective on October 1, 2016. The law allows Maryland residents to name a fiduciary, during incapacity and upon death, to access the resident's online accounts. DC has not yet enacted such legislation. For details on how to manage your digital assets, see an estate attorney.
In response to this problem, state legislators have slowly been passing new laws to gain access to digital accounts. As a result, some tech companies are beginning to change their policies to account for this. However, when it comes to your estate planning, do you want someone to have access to your digital accounts after you pass away? If yes, for how long should they have that access?
This subject was recently considered by the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "Digital Assets Estate Planning -- Alternatives to Perpetual Access."
The problem? The longer a digital account remains open without someone monitoring it, the more likely it is to be hacked by someone who can use the information in it for criminal, fraudulent or other nefarious purposes. Cases of this happening are becoming much more frequent. It sometimes means that estate administrators must deal with all of the problems associated with identity theft in addition to their more traditional duties.
Given these potential abuses, you might want to direct in your estate planning that your accounts be closed completely, after the period of time necessary to wrap up your affairs.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (April 6, 2018) "Digital Assets Estate Planning -- Alternatives to Perpetual Access."