We live in an increasingly digital age, where we share more and more of our lives online through social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms.
As a result of the increasing size of our digital footprint, it’s important to consider what will happen to your online presence when you die. This prompts many people to ask: "Can I include social media accounts in a Will?"
This is a constantly evolving area of estate planning and probate law, and one that is important to consider.
The legal profession refers to your online presence as your digital assets, or your digital estate.
Digital assets typically fall into two categories: personal digital property, and digital assets used in a business.
Personal digital property includes:
Digital business assets may include:
Some of these digital assets could have significant monetary value, and may contain sensitive information including credit card numbers, billing information, and information that could be used to fraudulently open new accounts in your name after your death. The importance of protecting these assets cannot be understated.
As a preliminary matter, it’s important to give some thought to how people will access your digital assets after your death.
Many people mistakenly believe that they do not need to include social media accounts in a Will. Instead, the believe that family members will be able to simply notify the social media organization of a death, and that the social media company will tell them what to do with the deceased person’s site and account. Unfortunately, without proper planning, that often is not the case. In some instances, it can be virtually impossible to access or shutdown someone’s social media account.
This is why it is important to plan for where you’ll store all of your passwords, and create a system that will allow others to access them.
Once you’ve decided how other people will access your social media accounts, you can consider what you want done with your social media presence.
We encourage our clients to create a digital asset management plan as part of their estate plan. The digital asset management plan should allow the estate Executor to access passwords for the deceased person's social media accounts. Make sure you leave information for your Executor so they know what social media accounts you have, and how to access them.
Begin by making a list of all of your accounts, then specify the account details, including username, passwords and, if the account requires them, security questions and answers. Once you complete this inventory, store the document in a safe and secure location. We routinely advise our clients to leave this information in a sealed envelope that is given to the estate planning attorney. This document should be updated regularly.
You might also include a provision in your Power of Attorney that specifically allows your Executor to access online assets as necessary.
Next, consider the instructions that you want to leave to your estate Executor. What do you want this person to do with your digital assets?
Consider the following questions when formulating your digital asset estate plan:
Of course, digital estate planning is no substitute for a traditional estate pan. Rather, it’s an important complement to a traditional estate plan that takes into consideration the ever-evolving digital landscape and how you wish to exist in it once you’re gone.
If you or your family need help creating a digital asset estate plan, contact Wolfe Legal Services today.
I have more than 23 years experience providing probate and estate planning services to people throughout greater Columbus, including Dublin, Worthington, Westerville, Bexley, Delaware, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Marysville, Hilliard, Delaware, and Newark, and throughout Franklin County, Delaware County, Pickaway County, Fairfield County, Union County, and Licking County. Call or Text (614) 263-5297 any time or complete our secure, confidential, and free online form located on the home page.