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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Monday, October 31, 2016

Do You Have Plans For Your Digital Afterlife?

There’s no doubt about it, we live in a digital world. Perhaps there is no better example of this than what happened during Hurricane Matthew. It was almost humorous to see young people try and figure out how to live unplugged for a while, but there were plenty of serious moments as well. Facebook activated its “safety check” feature which allowed people in the storm’s path to digitally signal they were doing alright, and a guy from Hope Mills, North Carolina was rescued because his brother down in Texas happened to see a picture of his flooded house, which was taken by a drone, on Twitter.

Although the digital world has become an important aspect of our live, it is not something many people think about when they craft their estate plans. For example, have you ever checked out a Facebook friend’s profile page after they died? Oftentimes these become a place for friends and family to grieve, and it is sort of a wonderful thing because people share pictures and stories and are able to look back on happier times. Then someone tags them in a picture of their headstone. As time passes, Facebook still notifies you it is their birthday, and people still write on their wall. Is this what your friend would have wanted? Is this what you want to happen after you die? If not, it’s time to take action.

Most online companies now have policies in place that dictate what will happen after a user dies. Some of these companies also have optional features that users can activate that tell the company what the user would prefer happen to their account.

Facebook

Facebook has a setting that allows you to delegate the power to shut down your account or turn it into a memorial page to a friend or family member. If you don’t set your after death account preferences, there is also a form your loved ones can fill out to request that your account be removed.

Google

Google allows users to designate an “inactive account manager” to take possession of the user’s digital assets after death. There is also a form an estate administrator can fill out to request data (or funds, if applicable) from the account of someone who died without designating an inactive account manager.

Apple

Apple’s terms of service agreement terminates all rights at the time of death, meaning apps, music, films, and other files aren’t transferrable to a new user. If more than one person is using an Apple ID, both people need to know the password and have access to the associated email address and credit card in order to keep using it.

Adding Your Digital Estate To Your Estate Plan

There is no guarantee that the terms and conditions and settings discussed above will not change, so as a fallback, it is a good idea to indicate in your estate plan what accounts you have, and what you would like done with them after your death.

To make things easier for the person you designate to be your digital estate administrator, you should make a list of all the accounts you have and your passwords. Keep this list in a secure place, but also remember to keep it up to date!

Estate plans are enforced by court order, so including your plans for your digital afterlife in yours is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out. 


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