Can the Law Keep Up With Our Modern LifeStyle?

After having to step in and use a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to assist my parents, I quickly found so many gaps in its functionality, I devised many work arounds with my Dad so I could help them.

Not only were we surprised to find that a number of financial institutions declined to accept the DPOA, but there are many facets of our digital lives that it doesn’t cover.

moderntechoptionsFor those of us who use online services, email accounts and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. If you haven’t stopped to read the “terms and conditions” you accepted, they typically state you can’t share the account and the provider basically dictates the rules. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you share your username and passcode.

The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to — but not control of — the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. Given that at the age of 65, 7 out of 10 American’s will need 3 or more years of long-term care, we must recognize that most people will need someone to have access to these accounts while we are alive.

If you don’t have a list that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best-seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life that includes worksheets and details on how you can provide loved ones with the information they may need to help you.


If you are active on social media, do you know what happens when you die?

facebookThe owner(s) of the online site(s) you accepted the “terms and conditions” to before getting access dictate your digital rights on their service. Our world moved faster than the laws and after years of frustration, many of the online giants are starting to do more to address the issue of digital asset rights for their users. Google created an “Inactive Account Manager” but it is only a very broad safety net. The shortest term for inactivity is 3 months.

As a caregiver, we know how many issues surface for those who are unable to manage their own lives. Imagine if the person you were caring for was an active blogger or a great photographer and sold rights to their images online. Would you have what you need to access their accounts? For most of us, we might just need to get into email to be able to respond to friends of the person you are caring for. The power of attorney doesn’t cover this realm, yet.

Given that more people face a crisis or permanent disability before they die, the only way to ensure your loved ones have access to help you is to hand over a list of your usernames and passcodes. For a free tool to better understand and document you information, you can download a copy of “Taming the Internet: Keeping Track of Online Passcodes.” 

According to Slate, Facebook is rolling out an option that lets users choose to have their account wiped out upon death. The other option is to designate a hand-selected “legacy contact.”

I’m glad Facebook has done something, however, since 7 out of 10 Americans that turn 65 will need 3 years of care before they die, we must recognize that someone needs to be able to assist us long before we leave this planet and this isn’t just an issue for older americans. At the age of 40 nearly half of Americans will face a disability lasting 90-days; are you prepared to let a loved one step in and help you when you need it?

I encourage you to set up a system to be able to share the digital keys to your estate, should someone need to act on your behalf, if even only temporarily. As a reader, you know there are so many things you don’t have access or information about, even for those of us with durable powers of attorney. I hope you will take me up on the offer to download a free copy to at least get your digital house in order. Offered.


What’s in that Online User Agreement You Accepted?

I-agreeMost of us click the box and don’t think twice about what’s in “Terms of Use Agreement” when we check the box to “Accept”.

The typical web user has 25 online accounts, ranging from social media to online banking (according to a 2007 study from Microsoft). Did you know that most include a clause that makes your assets non-transferable upon death and many will force account deactivation?

Even if the rights are given to you in a Will or Durable Power of Attorney (POA), using them can be difficult. As I found when I tried to act on my parents behalf when they were both alive — you may have the right by law and on paper — but that doesn’t make the vendor accept that you have the legal right. After several financial firms told me they wouldn’t accept the POA my parents completed in 2002 (if was over two or five years old which was their requirement), we ended up drafting a new one. Most lawyers will tell you they don’t go stale — but I didn’t have the time to pursue a legal battle with banks — thankfully — I found out before it was too late for my parents to sign a new POA.

I learned that having the paper with the rights isn’t as easy to use as you are lead to believe. Even if you are named the “digital executor” it won’t guarantee you have the power to bestow access to your loved ones.

You have the power to make this a simple matter. Write down your usernames and passcodes and put them in a place your loved one could find if they need to use it. One way to document this information is in a MemoryBanc Register. Experienced.

Two current news stories on this topic can be found here:

What Happens to your digital life after death? (12/2/2013) Pew Research Center

What Happens to Digital Assets when you Die? (12/2/2013) Grand Rapids Business Journal