Every time I log onto LinkedIn, I am asked if I want to become associated with a dearly departed friend. It's more than disconcerting, it's downright macabre. Unfortunately her family doesn't know her login and passwords to her LinkedIn and many other social media sites she was active on. So her friends, family, and social acquaintances are constantly reminded of her passing and unable to stop the ghoulish prompts.
It's time for Internet and social media users to start thinking of their user names and passwords as part of their estate planning, so that they can securely leave this information for family members to access upon their death. Digital assets, such as iTunes, Twitter, and Facebook accounts may or may not be transferable to beneficiaries depending upon each companies specific licensing terms and agreements, but even so, no one wants their family members' account to "live" eternally once they are dead.
If you have a business and you or your business partner have tens of thousands of Twitter or Facebook followers, your online account is of great value even though it might not be found listed on your financial statement. These integral assets, including domain names, blogs, and websites, need to be thought of and treated as assets. Thus they should be listed and considered as part of your financial possessions to be bequeathed upon one's death.
According to attorney Kate Diehm, of Rucci Law Group, LLC, "When thinking of business assets (domain names, business Twitter/Facebook accounts, etc.), the most important thing is to make sure that the digital assets are owned by the business entity, not an individual. (In other words, if you had an employee set up your website for you ten years ago, make sure that the domain name is owned by the business, not by the employee.) That's critical, not just for succession planning issues, but also for investment in your current business - if you're running a successful e-commerce site, but the business doesn't own the domain name, the business is missing control over a critical asset."
Don't forget that assets in online trading and bank accounts can be difficult to access and close without user ID and passwords so creating and maintaining a secure access list is crucial.
So, what can you do to prepare for this? Here are a few simple steps to ensure your digital life will be managed after death:
To quote Chuck Palahniuk:
"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will."
Benay works diligently to understand the changing financial climates and legal directives for our clients' respective states so that we can effectively inform and assist them.