Every second almost 3,000,000 emails are sent and almost 12,000 Facebook status updates are posted, not to mention the throngs of online videos and photos that are posted to YouTube and Flickr. Most people in the United States have at least one email and social media account. In fact, recent studies have found that almost 80% of Americans have Facebook accounts. As a Houston estate planning attorney, one of the issues I help clients address is how to deal with these assets as part of an overall estate plan. While many people keep important papers such as their Wills in secure locations that their family members know about, most digital assets go ignored in the estate planning process, which can make it difficult to close email and social media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., after a loved one dies.
An article published by the American Bar Association back in 2010 points out a basic roadmap to use in planning for digital assets which is still relevant today. Here are some steps which may help.
In addition to the above steps and the others mentioned in the original article, the policies and procedures of social media companies will also have an effect on how accounts are managed after you die. More and more companies are beginning to address the issue of how to deal with accounts after the owner dies. Additionally, laws are continuing to evolve concern the management of digital assets after death, so you will always want to read the company’s policies and consult an estate planning attorney who is knowledgeable regarding the subject.
Reference: Law Practice Today (March 2010), “Estate Planning for Your Digital Assets“