If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m excited about digital estate planning. Digital estate planning is essentially planning for our online lives. It’s a fairly new concept but I think it is going to be big. In a few years it’s going to be common for estate planning attorneys to inquire about their client’s online activities.
Recently, one of the big social media providers made an important announcement. Facebook has announced that it will allow members to designate a “Legacy Contact” to have access to an account following the owner’s death.
The Legacy Contact will have limited powers such as posting a final notice and pictures and responding to friend requests. However, the Legacy Contact will be restricted from removing posts and reviewing messages that the decedent sent to friends. Even with the limitations, I think that it is a good start.
Now some of you might be thinking, who cares? The answer is you should. Ten years ago my older clients didn’t even use email. Today, even my oldest clients are Internet savvy.
The truth is a lot of us use the Internet for just about everything. I recently had to write a check and it took me almost half an hour to find the checkbook because I pay everything online. I couldn’t remember the last time I wrote an actual check.
Facebook and online payments represent only a small portion of what we do online. Many of us have multiple email accounts. We tweet and blog. We shop eBay and compare prices before we step out the door to go buy a new sump pump. We check the balances on our bank accounts and review our investments. Heck, I even have a library full of e-books that I can access from almost anywhere.
Just think about all of the things that you do online and what will happen to it when you die. Who can access your email account or go online to pay your phone bill? How many of you have even thought about what will happen to our online activities when you die? My guess is not many.
Facebook has taken a baby step toward addressing after-death activities and it has given you an opportunity to address one aspect of your digital estate planning needs. Hopefully other websites will follow but until then, you need to think about this stuff. Who do you want to have access to your accounts and how will they gain access? If you don’t think about this and plan appropriately, chances are no one will be able to address our online lives. So give it some thought and start planning now.