Online life after death raises privacy, estate planning concerns

People in California may have seen a recent article proposing ways in which people can protect their digital accounts and social media assets after death. While it's something many people haven't thought much about, these staggering statistics might be reason enough: there are an estimated 30 million deceased people with Facebook accounts, and people consider the value of their digital assets to be, on average, $55,000.

There are also major privacy concerns for people whose digital content may be frozen in time after death. After a person has died, even family members can have a tough time getting social media companies to comply with requests to access or take down a person's profile.

addressing digital asset management of the deceased. Some states have laws allowing fiduciaries and estate administrators to access these accounts.

There are ways to address the issue, but people need to consider digital assets as a part of their estate plan. For example, they may grant a sort of power of attorney to certain individuals to manage or remove their online content in the event of incapacitation. A person may divulge online passwords to trusted individuals, but directions need to be specific. What accounts are out there, what are the passwords and what do you want people to do with the content there?

With the rapid proliferation of online accounts and social media, this field will grow rapidly over the coming years, but the dilemma is already at hand. An experienced estates and trusts attorney can help people integrate online content into their will, providing peace of mind in the digital age.

Source: Fresno Bee "Digital memories fade in death; protect yourself," March 1, 2013

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