Many New York residents readily rely upon email to communicate about a variety of personal, professional and financial matters. Depending on the email provider and type of account, most email services require users to sign privacy agreements. Email providers also require users to select a secure password which must be used to access an email account.

Upon setting up an email account, providers caution users not to share password information and include language aimed to protect access to a user’s account in a user’s agreement. What happens, however, in cases where an individual become incapacitated or dies? Family members may need access to information contained in an email account related to vital family, health and financial information.

The administrators of one estate have spent the last seven years trying to gain access to an email account of their late brother. The man had an email account with Yahoo!, which has refused to provide login information or access to the deceased man’s account. The siblings have taken the matter to court and taken steps to appeal a lower court’s decision.

Taking the aforementioned case into account, it makes sense that an individual may want to take steps to ensure loved ones are able to access an email account. Simply providing a family member or loved one with email login credentials often, however, raises many privacy concerns.

Most states don’t have laws that specifically pertain to accessing a deceased loved one’s digital account information including emails. However, disputes over access to email accounts are becoming more frequent, prompting some individual email providers to establish policies allowing an individual to essentially name a beneficiary for an email account.

When contemplating estate planning matters, individuals would be wise to consider how loved ones will gain access to digital assets including email accounts. To save loved ones time and hassle, it’s a good idea to name a beneficiary to these types of accounts or to write down login credentials.

Source: Forbes, “When Heirs Must Battle For Access To E-mail Accounts,” Deborah L. Jacobs, Dec. 11, 2013