Until recently, it was almost impossible for family members to gain access to a deceased person's digital accounts after they passed away. Whether access would be granted was at the sole discretion of tech companies, who often required judicial orders before they would even consider allowing families access to digital accounts.
Most states have now passed the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised. The act sets out standard rules for access to accounts.
Getting access is still complex and it depends on a few factors, according to Slate in "The Digital Afterlife Is a Mess."
- If outside of its general terms of service, a website has a specific way to handle access to accounts of deceased users, then that process should be followed.
- If a website does not have that specific process, then a user can put in a will how the accounts should be handled and by whom.
- If nothing is mentioned about the accounts in a will, then any language to handle the death of users in the website's general terms of service agreement are used.
- If none of the above apply, then the Act can be used to gain access in some circumstances.
The process is still difficult, so families would be well-advised to seek the assistance of an elder law attorney.
Reference: Slate (Nov. 29, 2017) "The Digital Afterlife Is a Mess."