Estate Plans Should Include Instructions for Your Digital Assets (Part 3)
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 24, 2014
Social media has developed into its own category of digital assets, and these accounts are more personal to the owner. They often leave behind a surviving legacy that – if desired – continues in some form after death. Their value is rarely monetary, and is, therefore, more sentimental. It likely contains images, videos, text and engagement with others. When planning ahead, the most important consideration for Social Media is the “deceased-user policies” that are agreed to upon creation of the account.
For example, Facebook allows a family member to “memorialize” the account. This enables friends to continue to interact with the deceased user’s Facebook wall in memory of the deceased. Certain access and features are limited to protect the account holder, and the account can be closed upon a formal request that meets certain criteria. It is for this reason that I would advise clients to include a digital personal representative in their estate documents.
In that regard, in your will, you can merely direct your [digital] personal representative to close or memorialize the account. This same memorialization can be made for LinkedIn accounts as well. In contrast, for Twitter, a family member of the deceased can deactivate the account and receive an archive of the tweets by merely submitting basic information to Twitter in a formal written request.
On the other hand, there are some accounts that will grant the deceased’s family members access upon a court order. Keep this in mind for accounts that you specifically do or do not want others to have access to. Like other assets, planning ahead can save time and money by avoiding going to court to obtain a court order. In the case of digital assets, providing your digital personal representative with your usernames and passwords is a simple solution. If you don’t want someone to access these accounts, you may want to to include express language that prohibits access to these accounts. This will likely prevent a judge from ordering that your account be accessible to family members.
Someone who cherishes their social media accounts, and realize how sentimental they will be to them in the future can start planning ahead today Here’s a few steps to start: 1) make a list of your social media accounts; 2) designate the accounts you want private verses those you would like passed on to loved ones; 3) read the user agreements for each account, or have an attorney do it for you (as these policies are often buried in legal language and are unpleasant to read); 4) consult your estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes with respect to your digital asset are effectuated (potentially by incorporating them into your will or trust); and 5) rest easy, your digital legacy is now protected!
Haimo Law offers additional legacy planning services that you will not find elsewhere as well. If preserving your legacy is important to you, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire into how we can make that happen.
Call or email now to get your family organized and ready for the future.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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