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Keep your Digital Presence in Mind When Estate Planning

In this new digital age, many people don’t think about what happens to their social media accounts and digital presence when they pass away. According to an article written by Jonathan Shaw entitled “Why ‘Big Data’ is a Big Deal,” the amount of data produced from 2012 to 2014 is more than all human civilization before that. Although social media is a relatively new phenomenon, it has infiltrated the everyday lives of millions. Because of this, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act was drafted to allow the executor of a person’s estate that is stated in the will to have access to that person’s email and social media accounts. As of 2018, 39 state legislators have adopted this act; however, this law is lacking specific instructions about how the access process should occur. This means in order for the executors in the states that have adopted this act to seek access, they must contact each individual platform. If a state hasn’t adopted this act, the company that owns the platform has the ability to decide whether they want to grant access to the executor.

What can you do to allow access to family members?

Specify your wishes in your will. Family members will want access to their loved one’s messages and images as momentos. Also, information about banking, bills and other important financial messages are specified in a person’s email, which can be crucial for the family members to know.

The biggest issue people tend to have with allowing access to social media has to do with the role of privacy. Because of this, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act specifies that written permission must be left to the executor to receive access of the usernames and passwords; however, a person’s will becomes public upon death. It is a good idea to use password management software to keep passwords private and then outline instructions about how to retrieve the passwords upon death.

To learn more about the importance of estate planning with your digital presence in mind, contact Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC.


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