Digital assets are becoming an increasingly important asset to address for those looking to create or modify an existing estate plan. Popular social media company Facebook recently announced that it has changed its policy with regard to how it will handle the accounts of people who have died. When a person passes away, his account will go into “memorial mode.” The page is publicly available if that is how the person had it set before he died. Before this change, memorial pages were viewable only by “friends,” regardless of what the person’s account settings had been. Facebook claims that the change in policy is an effort to “respect the choices a person made in life.”
Other internet companies have their own unique policies as well. For example, Twitter removes a deceased person’s account from “Who to Follow,” but will not give families access to the account. MySpace accounts are terminated and deleted when the person dies. An executor or trustee cannot keep the account up and running. YouTube accounts, however, can be accessed by heirs who have power of attorney. Google offers a feature known as “Inactive Account Manager”. This feature allows users to tell Google what to do with Gmail messages and other Google data if an account goes inactive.
Depending on the type of account that an individual has, it is important to address it as part of an estate planning update. For example, Google will allow you to choose up to 10 people who you want to receive your data. For other accounts, however, you may need to take different steps to ensure that your digital assets are managed the way you see fit.
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