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Managing online accounts

If your loved one used the conveniences of our digital age, you should ensure the executor or other designated person has control of your loved one’s online bank and brokerage accounts, social media sites and email accounts as soon as possible.

With today’s ubiquitous online banking and brokerage accounts, finding electronic passwords and managing automatic payments can be difficult when a loved one dies. You may get locked out of accounts and be unable to access funds when you need them. Hopefully, you have a record of account numbers, usernames, passwords and access codes. If not, you will face some obstacles.

Banks and financial services

Banks and financial services firms usually will let only executors gain access to a deceased individual’s account, and only then after they confirm the authority and identity of the executor.

Typically, these firms require an original death certificate, a probate court order showing the appointment of the executor and several forms of personal identification. Some may even require the executor to appear in person at an office to confirm their identity directly with an account officer.

Additionally, special rules may apply if the assets are owned in joint tenancy or have a beneficiary designation.

Email providers and social media

Major email system providers and social media sites are staunch defenders of passwords and codes, and require various documentation before you can touch an account. There are no standard procedures among them.

  • LinkedIn requires a form to be completed as well as several documents to be provided for proof of authorization to administer the person's account.
  • Google and Microsoft ask for seven separate pieces of information; Google even requires a copy of email correspondence between your lost loved one and you.
  • Facebook’s policy is to memorialize the account of the deceased person and not give anyone login information. However, Facebook users now have the ability to add trusted contacts that can securely access your account under Security Settings.

If you don’t have the passwords to these accounts, you’ll have to reach out to the email service provider or social media site by visiting each specific website and locating the Contact Us information.