The administration of a New York estate requires that the decedent’s assets be identified and collected. In most cases the marshaling of estate assets is not complicated. An Executor or Administrator often collects funds from bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance. Typically, there are forms to be completed and the asset is paid to the fiduciary.
However, today, many assets and the information regarding assets, along with a decedent’s affairs, only exists or is stored in a digital format. Unlike traditional items belonging to a decedent that can be discovered by looking through a decedent’s papers or mail, these digital assets are only found in electronic form. As a result, an estate representative is faced with the difficult task of discovering and then accessing this material. It is even more daunting to obtain such information when pass-words are unknown and the custodian of the information, such as an internet company like Google, Facebook, Apple or other on-line services, maintain strict privacy policies.
Such was the problem in a Westchester Estate that was faced by parents when their 24 year old son died unexpectantly. After the son’s death, without a Will, the parents were appointed as Administrators of his estate. They attempted to obtain formation from Apple that was contained in their son’s iPhone. Unfortunately, the parents did not have the passcode to access any of the data. After contacting Apple, they were advised among other requirements, that a Court Order would be needed to obtain the information, some of which may have been stored in iCloud back-up.