Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Cobb County Residents?

Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Cobb County Residents?

atlanta digital assets lawyerEstate 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. 

Avoid Probate in Cobb County, Georgia, Using Transfer on Death (TOD) Agreements

Dreamstime_13753365 By Steve Worrall, Cobb County Probate Lawyer

Avoiding probate in Cobb County, Georgia, is a very real concern for people who want to make sure certain assets such as stocks, bonds, brokerage and bank accounts automatically pass to their heirs upon their death.

In such a scenario, Transfer on Death Agreements (also known as TOD’s) can be a very useful and convenient estate planning tool in making sure your loved ones are financially taken care of in your absence.

Essentially, Transfer on Death Agreements allow you to pass ownership of your accounts directly to a beneficiary of your choosing when death occurs.  Without such designations, each account would have to go through the probate court before it can be distributed to your desired heirs.

Yet you may be wondering, “What’s wrong with going through Cobb County probate and why bother with tools such as TOD’s to avoid it?”

Well for starters, many people wish to avoid involvement with the Cobb County Probate Court simply because it could take a year or longer before the funds actually reach your desired beneficiaries.  This is problematic for families who desperately need the assets to pay for burial expenses, outstanding medical bills, mortgage payments, and general living expenses.

Not to mention, the value of your assets passing through probate may be reduced by as much as 5%, as mandatory attorney and court fees will be taken directly out of the estate.

Finally, one of the greatest drawbacks of probate is that the value of your assets will be made public for the whole world to see. This aspect of Cobb County probate is especially troublesome for people who do not want every scam-artist or busybody in town knowing what their heirs stand to inherit upon their passing.

Yet it is important to remember that while TOD agreements will help you avoid probate on some of your assets, it won’t help you avoid probate on the rest of your personal effects such as jewelry, collections, family heirlooms, the contents of your home, etc.

Nor will TOD agreements help you minimize the amount of estate taxes your family might have to pay upon your passing or protect your assets if incapacity and not death occurs.

That’s why it’s so important you speak with a Cobb County probate attorney before making any decisions about your financial or legal affairs.  While a TOD is indeed a useful estate planning tool that can help you avoid probate, it may not be the best – or the only tool your family needs to ensure they are protected should something unexpectedly happen to you.

Fortunately, we’ve made the process of meeting with a Cobb County probate lawyer easier than ever by offering free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750) to anyone that takes the time to read this informational article.  However, these sessions are limited to 10 per month, so call 770-425-6060 to reserve your spot today.

SOURCE: GeorgiaFamilyLaw.com