As our lives become increasingly digital, more and more of the assets we accumulate are based in technology or created online.
Estate planning attorneys in the Atlanta area have the important job of educating their clients on how to handle “digital assets” in the event of a person’s death or incapacity, and then helping the client document such wishes in a will or trust. Whether it’s an email account, blog, collection of domain names, hosting accounts, apps, ebooks, etc., a good estate planning lawyer in Atlanta can help ensure that only a person the account owner trusts can access and maintain digital assets in their absence.
One area of digital asset planning that has received a lot of attention lately is the management of one’s Facebook profile page. Until recently, loved ones of the deceased only had two choices: 1) Keep the wall public so everyone could continue to post messages and thoughts on the wall or 2) request to have the page “memorialized,” which meant the profile was no longer searchable or visible to those who were not already friends of the individual.
What Facebook did not allow to happen was for someone to manage the profile in the owner’s place. Without explicitly having the password (and the permission to use it!), loved ones could not accept new friend requests, pin important information about memorial services to the top of the profile or update pictures.
That’s all changed this week, though, with the roll out of Facebook’s Legacy Contact feature. Facebook users now have the opportunity to choose a “legacy contact,” either a family member or a friend, whom they want to manage their account when they pass away. Or, they can let Facebook know that they want their account deleted immediately upon their passing.
From Facebook’s Newsroom:
Today we’re introducing a new feature that lets people choose a legacy contact—a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away. Once someone lets us know that a person has passed away, we will memorialize the account and the legacy contact will be able to:
- Write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
- Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
- Update the profile picture and cover photo
If someone chooses, they may give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information they shared on Facebook. Other settings will remain the same as before the
account was memorialized. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as the person who passed away or see that person’s private messages.
Alternatively, people can let us know if they’d prefer to have their Facebook account permanently deleted after death.
As you plan for the handling of your digital assets after death, the Facebook Legacy Contact Feature is an important tool to mention during the process. By simply logging into your account and following the directions below, you can easily make your wishes for your Facebook account known.
Here’s how to utilize the new feature:
Open Facebook settings. Choose Security Settings and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page.
After choosing your legacy contact, you’ll have the option to send a message to that person.
Here’s a snapshot of what a page will look like once memorialized. You’ll notice the word “remembering” over the deceased’s name.
How do you feel about the creation of Facebook’s new “Legacy Contact” feature? Will you take advantage of the opportunity to name a contact and share this information with your clients? Sound off why, or why not, send me an email or leave a comment below and let me know.
Many thanks to my friend Laura Lee Sparks for this post!
Estate planning lawyers in Cobb County have always had to keep up with the times, and this is just as true in Georgia as it is anywhere else. Often these changes include things like new legislation, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as differing lifestyles and advancing technologies. Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your Facebook when you die?
It’s a question that even the legal world is starting to address. Of course, Facebook is only one of the social networks out there, and it’s likely that more will emerge, with some taking over the spotlight. For now, Facebook is certainly one of the most talked about, as Facebook has reached a billion users. As of November of 2012, Twitter had 500 million, Google+ had 400 million, Skype had 280, and LinkedIn had 175 million. And this represents only a fraction of the social networks that are out there.
New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were some of the first states to start taking a look at how estate planning attorneys might assist clients in designating personal representatives to take over their social media accounts should the original owner become deceased or incapacitated. Some people are referring to this as an “online executor,” and it’s even being suggested to officially name this person in the will or trust.
What About Facebook?
While it still remains to be seen how things will play out, especially as newer technologies become part of the Cobb County estate planning landscape, Facebook (as well as many other social media networks) already does have a system in place for dealing with the death of a user.
When someone passes away, Facebook allows another person to notify them. They will need to be able to supply the individual’s full name (used on the account), email address used to create the account, and the URL of the deceased’s profile. This is done through a form. In addition, the person must report their relationship with the deceased.
At this point, Facebook will ask what should be done with the profile. Some families prefer to take the entire thing down. Others choose the option of “memorializing” the page. When this happens, Facebook allows only those who were already confirmed as friends to see and post on the page. Many friends do this as a way to leave memories or express condolences to those left behind. If the account has been memorialized, it is removed from the general search function.
Another common option is for people to create their own pages in memory of a friend or family member. This can even be done in conjunction with the memorializing of the original page. The benefit is that this allows those who were not confirmed friends on the original account to leave messages, post photos, etc.
So, do you need to get a Cobb County will lawyer involved when it comes to your Facebook account? The answer to that is “maybe.” If your account is part of your business strategy, for example, you might find it to be even more imperative. Even for those who just use Facebook and other social media for personal communication, naming an online executor is something to consider.
Our Cobb County wills, trusts and probate law firm can help you get started in creating a digital asset protection plan that best meets your personal or business needs. For more information or to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, please give our office a call at 770-425-6060.
Remember the days when IP—Intellectual Property—was the exclusive domain of patent attorneys, computer science majors, successful authors, and professional photographers and artists? Well, times have changed, because whether you know it or not, you’re very likely a player in the IP space…today’s world of ones and zeros (i.e.,binary code, if you’re not up on the lingo).
This IS Relevant to Planning Your Estate
Before you conclude that we’re about to embark on some platitude about how technology is leaving us all in the dust (we’re not going to do that), take a moment to think about your current digital footprint. In what ways are you out there on the internet?
- Email accounts? Cloud storage (Flickr, iCloud, Amazon Cloud, Google Docs)?
- PayPal? Online bank accounts? Online recurring subscriptions?
- Websites, domain names, blogs?
Unless your head’s been buried in the sand for the last ten years, it’s likely that you have at least some of the above-named assets.
Increased Online Storage
One of the most important functions of any estate plan is an instructional letter that advises your loved ones on where they can find critically important documents—Last Wills, Trust Agreements, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, and financial instruments.
Increasingly, these sorts of documents are being stored online. Make things easy on your loved ones. Even if your critically important estate planning documents aren’t stored online, your loved ones will still need to access your digital life once you’ve exited the real world.
The first step in making life easy on your loved ones is to list your digital assets. Be careful . . . some assets might belong to your business (if you have one), so take care in discriminating who owns what (e.g. internet domain names). It can be a lot to sort through, but you’re the best person for the job. Nobody knows what you have better than you.
Understand the Fine Print
The terms of service for online providers differ markedly. Take the time to understand what you’re getting into when you sign up for a service. For example, when a person dies, his or her Facebook page can be “memorialized.” That means it can’t be accessed or altered by anyone. Make sure you’re okay with that, and remember that whatever you write will be on the web . . . potentially forever.
Be Clear on Your Wishes
Clearly communicate to your attorney or to someone that you intimately trust (i) what you have, and (ii) what you want to have done with it. If you’ve stored passwords to email accounts that you want someone to be able to access, make sure you leave a clear record. Otherwise, your loved ones might be locked out of your accounts (e.g. Facebook, as described above).
You just don’t want to leave your digital footprint to chance. Take the time to decide how you want your digital legacy handled, and then put a system in place to make sure it happens according to plan.
It’s A New Ballgame
Dealing with the issue of digital assets, not to mention hard assets like real estate, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, precious metals, business interests, etc., can be really stressful if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, we’re here to support you, and we’re old pros at dealing with these issues. Digital legacies might be a new ballgame, but they adhere to the tried and true rules of estate planning, so we can help you handle these issues without a hiccup.
Give us a call today to schedule a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session™. We normally charge $750 for these sessions, but until our calendar fills up for the month, we’re going to give them away!