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What happens to your online accounts when you die?

  • FILE - This Feb. 16, 2013 file photo shows a printout of the Facebook page for Loren Williams, now deceased, at the Beaverton, Ore. home of his mother, Karen Williams. Williams sued Facebook for access to Loren's account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident at the age of 22. The Uniform Law Commission on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 was expected to endorse a plan to automatically give loved ones access to — but not control of — all digital accounts, unless otherwise specified. (AP Photo/Lauren Gambino, File)

    FILE - This Feb. 16, 2013 file photo shows a printout of the Facebook page for Loren Williams, now deceased, at the Beaverton, Ore. home of his mother, Karen Williams. Williams sued Facebook for access to Loren's account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident at the age of 22. The Uniform Law Commission on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 was expected to endorse a plan to automatically give loved ones access to — but not control of — all digital accounts, unless otherwise specified. (AP Photo/Lauren Gambino, File)

  • FILE – In this Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 file photo, Karen Williams, who sued Facebook for access to her 22-year-old son Loren’s account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident, looks at a portrait of her son at her home in Beaverton, Ore. The Uniform Law Commission on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 was expected to endorse a plan to automatically give loved ones access to — but not control of — all digital accounts, unless otherwise specified.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

    FILE – In this Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 file photo, Karen Williams, who sued Facebook for access to her 22-year-old son Loren’s account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident, looks at a portrait of her son at her home in Beaverton, Ore. The Uniform Law Commission on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 was expected to endorse a plan to automatically give loved ones access to — but not control of — all digital accounts, unless otherwise specified. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

  • FILE - This Feb. 16, 2013 file photo shows a printout of the Facebook page for Loren Williams, now deceased, at the Beaverton, Ore. home of his mother, Karen Williams. Williams sued Facebook for access to Loren's account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident at the age of 22. The Uniform Law Commission on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 was expected to endorse a plan to automatically give loved ones access to — but not control of — all digital accounts, unless otherwise specified. (AP Photo/Lauren Gambino, File)
  • FILE – In this Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 file photo, Karen Williams, who sued Facebook for access to her 22-year-old son Loren’s account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident, looks at a portrait of her son at her home in Beaverton, Ore. The Uniform Law Commission on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 was expected to endorse a plan to automatically give loved ones access to — but not control of — all digital accounts, unless otherwise specified.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

You’ve probably decided who gets the house or that family heirloom up in the attic when you die. But what about your email account and all of those photos stored online?

Grieving relatives might want access for sentimental reasons, or to settle financial issues. But do you want your mom reading your exchanges on an online dating profile or a spouse going through every email?

The Uniform Law Commission, whose members are appointed by state governments to help standardize state laws, yesterday endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to – but not control of – the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will.

To become law in a state, the legislation would have to be adopted by the legislature. If it did, a person’s online life could become as much a part of estate planning as deciding what to do with physical possessions.

“This is something most people don’t think of until they are faced with it. They have no idea what is about to be lost,” said Karen Williams of Beaverton, Ore., who sued Facebook for access to her 22-year-old son Loren’s account after he died in a 2005 motorcycle accident.

The question of what to do with one’s “digital assets” is as big as America’s electronic footprint. A person’s online musings, photos and videos – such as a popular cooking blog or a gaming avatar that has acquired a certain status online – can be worth considerable value to an estate. Imagine the trove of digital files for someone of historical or popular note – say former president Bill Clinton or musician Bob Dylan – and what those files might fetch on an auction block.

“Our email accounts are our filing cabinets these days,” said Suzanne Brown Walsh, a Cummings & Lockwood attorney who chaired the drafting committee on the proposed legislation. But “if you need access to an email account, in most states you wouldn’t get it.”

But privacy activists are skeptical of the proposal. Ginger McCall, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said a judge’s approval should be needed for access, to protect the privacy of both the owners of accounts and the people who communicate with them.

Legacy Comments5

No offense Larry, but she's probably the only one that wants them...just saying.

lol...you silly Wabbit. Oops, sorry. (c:

I, DirtyLarry, being of tolerably sound mind, hereby leave all of my CM Talkback forum posts to the Possum Queen of Epsom, tillie.

Can you send me those Woodstock photos?

I could do that, Bean, but then you'd want the Bangladesh ones, too, I spoz. Possum Prince & Possum Princess dancing in pink mumus. Hari-Hari. My Sweet Lord.

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