A 42-year-old man died intestate in 2006 after a motorcycle crash. He had a Yahoo email account that he had created and shared with his brother. When his surviving siblings sued for full access to the account, Yahoo was initially granted a summary judgment. Now, the Supreme Court may make a ruling in the case, and its decision could have an impact on California residents.
Before the case reached the Supreme Court, it was appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. A judge ruled that the Stored Communications Act would not prevent the contents of the account to be released to family members. Yahoo believes that this could get rid of privacy rights that a person may have been entitled to after death. However, the court did not force Yahoo to provide the content. Instead, it simply reversed the decision of a probate judge.
It is also not clear whether Yahoo’s terms of service would create a barrier to releasing such information. One of the Massachusetts judges was not happy that the case was remanded back to the probate court, and he said that Yahoo’s appeal should have been dismissed. He noted that the cost of continuing litigation could cause a burden for the family even if it wasn’t much of a concern to Yahoo.
Money that is spent litigating issues related to an estate may be money that is lost to heirs of that estate. However, sometimes probate litigation is inevitable, whether it is an inheritance dispute or a will challenge. An estate litigation attorney can often be of assistance in this regard.