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Accessing Digital Assets May Be Difficult During Estate Administration

One major responsibility of executors and administrators of a California probate estate is to take control of the assets of the estate. In today’s highly technological era, however, assets can be harder to obtain control over than ever. Digital assets are often difficult to gain access to.

The following are nine facts relating to the issues surrounding digital assets:

  1. Examples of digital assets include e-mails, digital photos, videos, text messages, music files, and e-books.
  2. Access to online accounts that contain digital assets, such as Facebook, PayPal, and bank accounts, can be difficult to obtain.
  3. In 2011, internet security firm, McAfee, conducted a survey. It reveals that the average American user of the web has more than $37,000 in under-protected digital assets.
  4. The U.S. Uniform Law Commission recently approved a committee on fiduciary power and authority to access digital property and online accounts.
  5. In 2005, Yahoo refused to allow a father access to his son’s email account without a court order.
  6. In 2012, through the U.S. District Court of Northern California, Facebook prevented the estate of a deceased woman from acquiring her account details.
  7. Executors or administrators could potentially use an online service to obtain account information if the deceased stored passwords with the service.
  8. Some companies take the position that, unless detailed instructions are left pertaining to the digital assets, the decedent wanted to maintain privacy.
  9. Under current law, families cannot force companies to grant access to the deceased’s data or accounts.

Obtaining the assets, including digital assets, of the decedent during a probate administration is just one of many duties owed by a personal representative. Our article, The Duties of the Personal Representative of a California Estate, offers more information about these duties. In addition, our free book, The Insider’s Guide To California Probate And Trust Administration, describes more about the administration process. Contact an experienced probate attorney today for assistance probating an estate. Call the Grossman Law Firm at (888) 443-6590 or click here to contact us.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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