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Texas estate administration includes access to email accounts

Texas residents may not realize how much of their lives are conducted online. Technological advances allow individuals to receive their bills and account statements through email, as many companies provide a "paperless" option for account holders. This is convenient for everyone involved, unless the account holder has died. Estate administration gets complicated when an executor or heir is unable to access an email account.

For example, one family has been attempting to access a deceased loved one's Yahoo! email account for nearly seven years. The executors of the man's estate, his brother and sister, have even asked the Court of Appeals in the state in which the probate is taking place to order Yahoo! to release the email account. An appellate court denied the request, but remanded the case to the probate court to attempt another avenue -- the federal Stored Communications Act. This law may allow the executors access to the account.

Most heirs have neither the time nor the resources to litigate such an issue, let alone for seven years. Unfortunately, many states fail to address this issue in their probate statutes. So far, only one major email service has provisions for the death of an email account holder -- Google.

Until more email providers create provisions to cover this eventuality, it is up to individuals to ensure someone is able to access an individual's email accounts in the event of that person's death. Therefore, in order to simplify estate administration for a Texas executor, it may be beneficial to create a list of online accounts, user names and passwords that may be made available to an executor upon death. This prevents executors and family members from having to waste time and resources trying to gain access to email and other online accounts.

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

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