Cybersecurity — who “owns” your account?…Rick Loek

Who owns your online accounts? What happens when you die? Have you ever read the agreement you acknowledge when you create an account? Twice yearly I attend extensive training from Ed Slott, CPA and his team. The Wall Street Journal calls Ed Slott the nation’s best source of IRA advice. Additionally you may have seen Ed Slott on PBS during pledge week. He is one of the all-time top fundraisers for PBS. If you look closely at the show – you will see me in the audience! At our October 2016 training with Ed Slott we dove into the subject of digital estate planning. Do you have accounts you “share”, that is, you have one “joint” account? Did you know that online accounts are never joint?

Here are various types of online accounts:

  • Email; iTunes and similar digital media collections; Blogs, Domain names and websites
  • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites
  • Dropbox, Box, One Drive Google Drive, Shutterfly and other cloud storage accounts

At this point we have taught some of our chapter members to publish content on the Internet; they can boast that they are creating webpages – might have been fun at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Are you unknowingly a “hacker”? Anytime someone accesses information without proper authorization, that is exactly what they‘re doing – hacking! In many cases today, it is illegal for anyone other than an account owner to access a particular online account. For example Per Yahoo’s terms of service agreement: “No Right of Survivorship and NonTransferability. You agree that your Yahoo! account is non- transferable and any rights to your Yahoo! ID or contents within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all contents therein permanently deleted.”

What’s the solution? There is some legislation that can be suggested and adopted by various states. At the time of the training in October California was not one of those states. Maybe we can see what AARP can do to help lobby for a solution? Until something changes you should be aware that when a person passes away – access to their account is likely not authorized, even if their trust and estate documents make provision for such access.

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