One of the growing challenges with estate planning is how to handle digital assets (i.e. e-mail accounts, facebook® accounts, etc.) in your plan. This can be particularly troublesome in settling the estate if you have bank statements or financial account statements electronically sent to your e-mail address without a mailed paper copy. Without the ability to access your e-mail account, your Personal Representative or Trustee might not even know that you have the bank or financial accounts.
Unfortunately, Michigan’s probate code does not give your Personal Representative or Trustee authority to access your e-mail account after your death. And, historically, service providers such as Yahoo® refuse to give password information to someone other than you per their Terms of Service.
If you have a Google® account, however, you are in luck. You now have the ability to set up your Google® Inactive Account Manager. By setting up your Inactive Account Manager, you can designated someone to access to your Google® account if you have not logged in after a designated period of time.
To set up Inactive Account Manager, login to your Google® account, and then go to: https://www.google.com/settings/account, which will take you to your Google® account set-up page. Select Data Tools from the top menu, and then go to set-up Inactive Account Manager.
Through your Inactive Account Manager, you will be able to set the timeout period, after which your account will be treated as in active, and designate trusted contacts who are to be notified if your timeout period expires. You can, also, give them access to your Google® account. Optionally, you can instruct Google® to delete the account once the timeout period expires.
Hopefully, other online service providers will follow Google®’s lead in giving users the ability to provide others with access to their accounts in the event of their death. Meanwhile, if you have a Google® account, then be sure to set up your Inactive Account Manager. And, if you don’t have a Google® account, perhaps this would be a reason to consider setting one up.