Our lives are more digitalized now than they ever have been in the past. Many people have dozens of passwords to various apps and devices.
When someone passes away, especially if it’s unexpected, it can be difficult to get access to all of the files and accounts that they controlled. For instance, family members may need to access a computer so that they can download documents or photos. They may want to get onto a smartphone so that they can get the videos and pictures that were stored on the phone.
This gets even more complicated if the person kept a lot of these things in cloud storage. Just activating the device may not be enough, and the family also wants to get into these cloud storage accounts. And then there is the issue of financial accounts, such as bank accounts, investment apps, cryptocurrency trading programs and much more.
What if there is no estate plan?
Ideally, this person will have done their estate planning in advance and will have provided all the necessary passwords and login information. When they pass away, this makes it possible for the family to access the sentimental items and information that the family may want or need.
But if the person has not done any estate planning, then it may be impossible for the family members to access these devices resulting in the potential loss of photos, videos, documents, and other meaningful items. The companies that control the passwords and account information will not be willing to assist with recovery without a court order or other authorization. The solution is to go through the proper process to secure a court order directing them to turn over certain recoverable information. This can be done in probate court. Generally speaking, companies have no problem working with the authorized person(s) to provide much of this information, if there is a court order, but they don’t want to violate anyone’s right to privacy by doing it without this order.
What steps do you need to take?
If you find yourself in this position and you’re concerned about not being able to access your loved one’s files and accounts, don’t be. There is a process that will make at least some recovery possible, and it does work in most cases. You just need to know exactly what legal steps to take to get the information and the court orders that are required. The first step is to start a probate proceeding so that you have access to the courts for purposes of obtaining the necessary orders.