An important but often overlooked concern when undertaking estate planning is what happens to your social media accounts and other digital assets upon death. Many individuals have a significant presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media accounts but rarely consider what happens to those accounts upon our passing. Complicating matters are the numerous digital files, passwords, domain names, websites and online records that are now part of our daily lives and interactions with commerce. Failing to address these concerns with quality estate planning can make things difficult for our loved ones and those we leave behind responsible for handling our affairs.
Fortunately, many of the social media platforms have recognized the issue and instituted internal policies to allow access to social media accounts upon the passing of the account owner. In a nutshell, account holders are allowed to name a legacy contact who has limited authority under the account. However, many of the policies instituted by the leading technology companies restrict what another can do on your behalf and most, if not all do not allow for closing of the account or complete access for which to manage the account. Relying on these legacy policies does not solve the problem altogether. For your protection, thoughtful planning for these assets will go a long way to accomplishing your desires regarding these accounts.
Either during or after competing an estate plan it is advisable to compile a list of social media accounts, computer files and cloud storage sites along with their passwords for those who are responsible to handle your affairs after you have passed. Of course, significant consideration must be given to security issues to ensure this list doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and ironclad security protocols must be instituted to protect the sensitive and important information. Additionally, notes as to your wishes for the accounts will be much very appreciated by those left behind. Do you want the accounts closed and all information deleted or is it your wish for those left behind to have the ability to continue posting to your sites, perhaps to leave a memorial or other thoughts regarding your life and pursuits or closing down of the accounts altogether.
When working with an estate planning attorney it may important to incorporate your wishes in your estate planning documents depending on the circumstances and the nature and scope of your estate and extent of social media activity. Lastly, you should consider if there are websites or services that have recurring or automatic debits on credit cards or financial accounts that must be cancelled or addressed. While social media and digital assets are very much part of our daily lives careful thought must be given to how those assets are handled in the estate planning arena.