Sunday, October 12, 2014

Control over a decedent's information

An article in P.C. World reports that Yahoo is voicing opposition to Delaware's new "Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act," which gives executors of estates (called "personal representatives" in Michigan) broad access to the online messages and accounts of a decdent. The statute provides: "A fiduciary with authority over digital assets or digital accounts of an account holder under this chapter shall have the same access as the account holder." Yahoo's terms of service instead call for the information to be deleted when it is notified of the death. This approach, it says, is more compatible with the wishes of its users. Unlike money or physical property, Yahoo notes, it is incorrect to assume that the decedent would want his information turned over to his executor.

The article reports that Google and Facebook have generally expressed agreement with Yahoo's stance.

Note, however, that Delaware's new provision would still permit the individual to designate a person other than his executor to carry out any special directives he may have with respect to digital assets, accounts, and information.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Reasons not to do it, part 2

We previously posted an item providing several reasons not to add children as joint tenants on real estate as a probate avoidance technique. Recently we heard of an incident that raises a similar issue when it comes to bank accounts.
Elderly dad, age 84, placed his son's name on his checking acct for convenience. Recently, when he checked his account, he found that the State had swooped in and withdrawn a substantial amount of his money because of son's child support arrearage.
There are ways to avoid this result, with proper planning, if it is desired to have a child or other family member have access to an account for convenience. This scenario underscores the point that you should not "go it alone," without professional advice and guidance.