Estate Lawyer Scranton, PA
A Scranton, PA estate lawyer knows how critical digital assets are in today’s society, however, these assets can be disastrous for families and estate executors. Digital assets such as email accounts, online banking accounts, phone apps, photos stored in cloud accounts, digital music accounts, and more make our lives easier when we are alive but have historically caused all kinds of issues when the account holder dies. At Hoegen & Associates, P.C., we are aware of many cases where loved ones have forgotten about or failed to consider how important it was to grant access to their digital account via their estate plan and their executors were left with no way to gain access. Our estate lawyers have also heard of cases where access was permitted, but the account owners failed to keep their information updated or the accounts automatically closed upon their death, all denying access to executors.
When this happened, the problems created were many – final bills of the estate going unpaid, family photos lost forever because cloud accounts could not be accessed, and more. Luckily, the state of Pennsylvania has taken the steps to prevent these situations and provides provisions for families and executors to close out estates with digital assets.
Uniform Law Commission, Act 72
Under Pennsylvania’s Uniform Law Commission, Act 72, fiduciaries have the legal authority to access and manage the digital assets of a person who has become incapacitated or has died. This includes the executor of the estate.
As a Scranton estate lawyer can explain, the executor of the estate is usually chosen by the decedent and identified in their will. The executor is tasked with making sure all issues of the estate are addressed and wrapped up. They take care of final expenses, notify any potential beneficiaries, obtain death certificates, sell any property that is not going to be distributed, and close up all other matters of the decedent’s estate.
At first glance, access to digital accounts may not seem necessary for completing these tasks, but there are often issues that need to be addressed that are online. For example, the executor may need to:
- Pay the decedent’s bills online
- Obtain phone numbers and/or addresses stored in online accounts
- Make administrative changes to a blog or social media account
- Terminate subscriptions that can only be accessed online and will continue to incur costs
- Pay or manage insurance premiums
- Access online storage accounts to print or transfer important photographs
How the Act Ensures Executors Have Access to Your Accounts
There are two ways that you can provide easy access to your online digital accounts. Many custodians of online accounts have a process where the user can choose to direct the custodian to disclose (or not disclose) access to their account.
You can also specify in your will what your final wishes are when it comes to accessing these accounts, including how this information can be used. Just because you give your executor permission to access these accounts, it does not mean they have to have all access.
If a person fails to do either of the above two options, under the Uniform Law Commission, Act 72, an executor can still gain legal access to digital accounts. However, since this is not the optimal option, it is recommended that people specify their wishes about digital assets in their estate plans.
Contact an Estate Lawyer for More Information
If you would like to learn more about estate planning, call Hoegen & Associates, P.C. to schedule a free consultation with a skilled Scranton estate lawyer.