Thursday, February 12, 2015

Facebook Changes Death Policy; Digital Estate Planning Gaining Recognition

Courtesy of TechCrunch
As reported in today’s Washington Post, Facebook is now allowing users more freedom over what will continue to be displayed on their page after death.  Death-related digital policies change rapidly.  The latest update gives Facebook users significantly more choices than they had even in December, the last time I wrote a blog post about this topic.

Most notably, Facebook now allows users to name a “legacy contact,” someone who may take ownership of the account after death.  This includes the ability to accept friend requests from family members wishing to pay respects, post messages on the deceased’s timeline, and pin certain information to the top of the deceased’s Facebook page. 

Increasingly, digital assets are being treated the way tangible assets are treated in the estate planning world.  Naming a “legacy contact” is the Facebook equivalent of naming someone as the trustee of your living trust.  In both cases, you are picking someone you trust to manage your property (whether physical or digital) after your death.  Naming a “legacy contact” on Facebook also parallels another estate planning concept:  Naming a payable on death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary to a bank account.  You are naming someone to take over ownership of assets that have value to you.

Digital artists, photographers, musicians, architects, lawyers, and numerous other professionals now have valuable assets in their digital portfolio.  In my case, estate planning templates I draft for unusual situations (like digital estate plans!) could have value to the outside world, even though they are not physical assets and merely sit in a computer hard drive.  In the case of a professional nature photographer, digital images could have value to magazines long after death.

For better or for worse, we live in a digital world where more and more of our valuable assets and personal property is stored on computers or online.  To adequately protect these assets, stay up to date on the latest corporate digital policies relating to death of a user, and consult an estate planning attorney who is familiar with digital estate planning.

For more information, including inventorying accounts and controlling passwords, review my previous article on digital estate planning.

Published by Ian Holzhauer, Esq. of Nagle Obarski PC in Naperville, IL.  

Note:  The information above is not legal advice and is not the basis of an attorney-client relationship.  If you need assistance, you can hire an attorney to assist you with your individual legal needs. 


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