Unlike Vegas, what happens online goes everywhere and stays there forever. The permanence of our online lives poses a few, often unconsidered challenges for estate planning, especially regarding our social media identity and money invested in digital books or music.
For instance, that moment when a social media post tells you "Bob 'likes' Palatial Pizza" – even though Bob passed away over two years ago. While awkward, is anything at risk? And are there options for a family or friend to take the site down?
What's at risk?
"Every social networking site has its own policies regarding giving a friend or family access to update or take down a site," says Sarah White, an attorney in Marietta, Georgia and part of the Attorney Network for ARAG®, a leader in legal insurance. Choosing to leave a site up puts everyone at risk for some potential drama caused by people (known as trolls in the online world) who may leave insulting or inflammatory comments.
For many families, however, leaving the account open is a good choice. "It's a way to let people know of the passing and to offer a place for people to share thoughts, feelings and memories," says White.
Can I plan ahead?
If you'd like to be more proactive about how your social media identity is managed, check your state law. "Some states allow you to name someone who can take control of, handle and terminate your digital accounts at death," says White. "These new laws override any policy the social networking site may have."
To designate someone as the caretaker of your digital accounts, create a list of your user names and passwords and keep it with your will and final instructions.
What happens to my iTunes and Kindle books?
"The problem with allocating the digital books and songs you think you own is that you don't really own them," says White. "What you own is a license to use the digital files. Specifically, Amazon and Apple grant nontransferable rights to use Kindle books or to listen to songs on iTunes, but you can't pass them to a child or spouse."
Estate planning laws in many states haven't caught up to technology yet. As people spend more money on digital content, the law will soon catch up to technology, enabling that content to be passed on like other property.
Published with permission from RISMedia.