Category: Writings

June 19, 2019 Off

Closing Online Accounts When A Loved One Dies: Digital Estate Planning – Internet Accounts Like Facebook, Myspace

By Tammy Schneider

These days, many people have an active online life. Whether it is online banking, buying items on Ebay, playing online games or social networking, people are able to conduct many aspects of life online. But what happens to this online life when a person dies?

This new world of the Internet has grown so quickly that the law has some catching up to do. Creating a do it yourself digital will is one informal way to deal with this problem. Although this is not a formal will and it is only a complement to a real, legal will, a digital estate plan is a way to plan for an online legacy.

Internet Accounts to Think About In Digital Wills and Estate Planning

What web-based business should people consider when they are creating an estate plan for their internet life? This depends how deeply embedded a person is in the world of the web. Think about all of the following web sites, and more:

  • In a business plan, develop a strategy for takeover of any online aspects of the business or the sale of the business.Write these down in a legal, paper will and partnership or business contracts.
  • Plan who will inherit and have access to online assets such as stocks, online accounts, and Paypal. Add any money matters to an actual, legal will.
  • Decide whether to notify online friends in chat rooms and role-playing games. Who will notify these friends?
  • Determine whether accounts like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace need to be shut down, or whether they can remain open as a memorial.
  • Decide who will have the rights to the intellectual property on a personal web site, blog or a photo site like Flickr.
  • Discuss email accounts with loved ones – should they seek access to emails?
  • On a mundane but important note, list all bills that are paid or withdrawn from online bank accounts.

Intellectual Property and Internet Estate Planning

Some people use their blogs as a memoir, while others use them to track current events, family matters, or a hobby of interest. This writing is the property of the author. Consider whether the authority over this intellectual property should be given to anyone in particular. Write this into a paper will or into an informal, do-it-yourself internet legacy document.

Facebook, Myspace, and Email Accounts Have Specific Access Restrictions

Different web sites have different ways of dealing with a digital legacy. Facebook allows relatives to memorialize accounts or close them after a person has died. Like Facebook, Myspace will allow people to access an account once death has been confirmed. The account can remain as a memorial. People attempting to close the account will need their loved one’s email address and other personal information. Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail will provide access to the contents of an email account.

Plan for An Executor Of A Digital Will

Like any will, a digital will needs to have an executor. Choose someone who is able to deal with the legalities of accessing email accounts and closing or memorializing social networking accounts. Also consider that this person will be notifying online friends and reading email and blog posts: choose an executor who will understand the sensitive nature of these items.

Leaving or removing an online legacy is not something that people like to think about. However, just like tangible objects, a person’s digital life is something that needs to be considered in estate planning. Creating a do it yourself or informal digital estate plan is a good way to start.…