The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)
First, it should be noted that whether information can be accessed can still be subject to the service agreement with the online provider. In other words, Google, Facebook and similar providers have their own rules and procedures. There could be what is referred to as “legacy contacts” that are given deference if information needs to be transitioned to another party. These are expected to have been designated by the owner of the account prior to the need to use them.
So, if anyone reading this remembers naming a “legacy” contact in the long list of statements given before you sign up for an account, I for one would be curious how and when that happened. Not all providers have a system for recording this information and of those who supposedly do, the information for sign up is likely lost in the multiple pages of agreement requiring you to say “yes” before you can access the new app or platform.
Here is what you can do now.
• Make a list of all your online accounts, their online URL addresses and your user names and passwords (or you could if you wish use one of many apps on line that aggregate them all in one place and add the information there.) To remind yourself you may need to check all computers, laptops, phones and similar devices. That information should be kept in a very secure location but one where the person to whom you want to give access knows where it is. Suggestion: Also you might keep your hard copy original will, and power of attorney and any other documents that must be in hard copy format in the same place.
• Review the terms of service for each account to see if you have the option to name a person authorized to access the account for you, that is, the “legacy” contact as described above. Then name the person of your choice.
• Check your will, power of attorney and other legal documents to see that the authorized individuals in them are consistent with the individuals named as your contacts for the digital asset accounts.
• When you review your will, financial power of attorney and similar documents, the next time you revise your documents you can add provisions for digital assets.
It is probably best first to know what they are and then develop a plan. It is not recommended that you name or list specific digital assets, apps or platforms with personalized information since this information could become readily accessible.
Ask for help if needed. Happy hunting.
Janet Colliton, Esq. is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and limits her practice to elder law, retirement and estate planning, Medicaid, Medicare, life care and special needs at 790 East Market St., Suite 250, West Chester, Pa., 19382, 610436-6674Call via Mitel , colliton@collitonlaw. com. She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and, with Jeffrey Jones, CSA, co-founder of Life Transition Services LLC, a service for families with long term care needs. Tune in on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. to radio WCHE 1520, “50+ Planning Ahead,” with Janet Colliton, Colliton Elder Law Associates, and Phil McFadden, Home Instead Senior Care.