Do your fiduciaries have authority to deal with your digital accounts?

Most people would think that their executor, trustee, or agent under a Power of Attorney would generally have authority to obtain information about, or gain access to, relevant digital accounts  in case of disability or death.  However, it may not be that easy.  General authority may not be sufficient under laws enacted to protect your privacy, to prevent cyber-theft, and to increase computer security. In some circumstances it may be unlawful for an agent to access an account even if the agent has access to the username and password.  And the terms of service on many online accounts do not authorize an agent to act on behalf of the account owner.

Many states do not yet have laws that specifically authorize an agent to access electronic accounts.  It is likely that most states will enact laws in the coming years to deal with this with this issue and provide a specific method for authorization.  But for the time being it is prudent to add language to wills, trusts and financial powers of attorney specifically granting agents, executors, or trustees access to digital assets.

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