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Virginia Beach Estate Planning Lawyer / Blog / Estate and Trust Administration / Duties of Executors More Complex In Digital World

Duties of Executors More Complex In Digital World

The roles of executors and their agents, which had remained largely unchanged for decades, are, like everything in this digital age, undergoing a transformation.

Financial data analyzing
Financial data analyzing

“Being named an executor by a family member or close friend is an expression of the highest regard and trust, and it is generally regarded as an honor,” according to a recent article on the website ustrust.com

But, like many honors, it brings with it significant responsibilities and, often, unexpected challenges. “Serving as executor is one of the most complex financial roles anyone can undertake. The responsibilities are extensive and often highly technical, and the commitment of time and energy can be daunting. The role demands custody, investment, fiduciary, administrative, accounting, legal and tax expertise and capabilities. Emerging issues related to digital property, not to mention increasingly intricate family structures, add challenges for the executor.”

The site goes on to point out that at one time the search for important documents relating to an estate was largely confined to a few filing cabinets in the home of the deceased or perhaps a safety deposit box at the individual’s bank.

“But today, important papers may have been sent and stored solely in digital forms, which can muddle the search for important information,” according to the piece by Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive for U.S. Trust, and Colin Korzec, U.S. Trust national executive for estate settlement. “And, even if all of these digital locations are known, does the executor have current usernames and passwords to access the information?

“There are also potential legal issues, since most state laws are unclear as to an executor’s ability to gain access to a deceased individual’s digital property. User agreements for online services tend to be equally murky. What about access to email accounts? Can an executor access these accounts without violating the provider’s terms of use agreement? All this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to grappling with digital assets as an executor.”

One solution for dealing with a particularly difficult and complicated situation, the authors suggest, is to find a co-executor so that the potentially cumbersome tasks can be shared out.

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