Who will Inherit your Emails and Photos (including Selfies)?

Some years ago my computer servers and programs were set up by persons who worked for me. I did not do my own internet posting. Passwords and email access came under their control. When I decided to do the posting myself, I could not access my own websites. If I was unable to reach those persons, I could not get at my writings. It did not matter to the providers who paid the bill. What mattered were the passwords–the keys to access.

And they still are!

In a recent Associated Press article, Ivan Moreno stated that state probate laws govern what happens to your property–cars, land, buildings, personal possessions. But the laws are less clear when dealing with emails, records stored in online clouds, and photos posted on Social Media. Congress had passed no Federal legislation concerning the inheritance  of digital assets; or, access and use for that matter.

Technology now governs the ways we communicate with each other. Some 19 states have passed laws to clarify “what internet companies can release after someone dies and when information should be kept inaccessible.” Other states, like Utah, West Virginia, and Iowa are drafting bills with provisions to allow access. For a summary of these state laws and a series of articles on how to protect your digital property, see https://everplans.com/articles/

The easiest way to protect your digital stuff is to specify who you want your digital property to descend to. Along with a list of passwords to gain access to internet websites. Incorporate this information into your will or trust–your executor/trustee will then have the legal authority to act in your behalf and to resolve disputes or denial of access issues.

Internet companies and databases have established their own guidelines when called upon to provide persons, who believe they have a legitimate claim to cloud-stored documents and photos, with access. Most companies promise privacy to the owner of the stuff–and present practices honoring those privacy commitments, have led to heartache, inconvenience, frustration, and financial burdens for families who have gone to court to claim heirlooms and information they believe to be theirs by right of inheritance. Even if they agree, these companies are under no obligation to supply passwords.

Your everyday online and internet activities are property–who knew? Prepare a list of passwords for your heirs attached to instructions for your children, attorney, accountant and any others who will administer your estate. When you change passwords, update your list. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.  http://arleneeakle.com.

PS Many thanks to James Tanner for the informative website above.

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