What happens to online accounts after you die?

In 21st Century Estate Planning by Long

online accounts after you die

We are an internet addicted society (guilty!) – so much so that some are willing to give up sex for online access.

How many online accounts do you have?

Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter…

Do you bank online? Do you use the bill payment feature (billpay)?

How about PayPal? Google Checkout?

Typically when a bank is notified about a death, the knee jerk reaction is to freeze the account from future debits (purchases.)  However, this isn’t a state or federal mandate (far as I know) and bank policy would prevail.

Reasons why a bank would not freeze a checking account immediately:

  • There is another account owner
  • There is insufficient evidence of the death (invalid copies of a death certificate)
  • The bank may require a court order from a Florida Probate court.

What’s the harm in not having a plan for your online information?

Well, your Facebook account will be left in limbo (at least for a while) but more importantly, your email and financial accounts could be hacked or abused and your heirs might not know before it’s too late.

Example:  A man dies leaving a wife and two adult children.  Months before death, he allowed his daughter to add his debit card to the daughter’s PayPal account so that she could purchase something for her father.  paypal after you dieAfter he died, the daughter realized that she could continue to spend money from her father’s account via the PayPal!  In a matter of weeks, the daughter had emptied her father’s bank account.

Scary, but so easily accomplished under the radar.

Take a moment to determine how vulnerable your online accounts might be if you died tomorrow.  (And do something about it.)