What happens to your digital assets when you die?

Computer on table with abstract pattern

Last week I talked about some of the important documents you should gather and store in a safe place so family members can easily find them when you die. Among them are any passwords for online accounts you may have. Today, let’s talk about what happens to your online accounts, specifically social networks — when you die.

It’s important to know that leaving passwords behind so loved ones can access your account may not be enough. As the Associated Press reported last year, “most company’s ‘terms of service’ agreements prohibit anyone from accessing an account that isn’t theirs.” And it may take some wrangling to cancel a loved one’s account when they die. Facebook, for instance, says that “Verified immediate family members may request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook,” while Twitter says “we can work with a person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.” In order to do that, the survivor must provide your death certificate, their drivers license and a signed statement.

Facebook also allows you to specify whether you want your account deleted after death or if you want a “memorialized account,” where friends and family can share memories after you die. While you can name a legacy contact who can write a pinned post, respond to condolences and post photos, that person can’t log into your account and make changes.

Because social media is relatively new, this area of law is also relatively new and many states haven’t addressed the issue yet. The Uniform Law Commission has proposed an act, Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, that can be enacted at the state level. The act ensures account-holders retain control of their “digital property” and can plan for what happens to those accounts after their death. “Unless the account-holder instructs otherwise, legally appointed fiduciaries will have the same access to digital assets as they have always had to tangible assets, and the same duty to comply with the account-holder’s instructions.”  It has been enacted in Delaware and introduced in 17 other states. New Hampshire is not one of them.

Of course, not everyone wants their loved ones to access their social media accounts after they die. Consider whether you want others to be able to see all of your emails, private messages or your online dating profile. In that case, forego leaving the passwords and stipulate in your will that no one should have access to your online accounts, except perhaps your lawyer or someone to whom you grant power of attorney.

WebpageFX has created an infographic that provides a great visual overview of this topic that will help you understand each social media site’s policies and requirements to deactivate your accounts. To see it, click here.

Information about deactivating accounts:

Facebook: http://ow.ly/K74Uy

Twitter: http://ow.ly/K74YZ

LinkedIn: http://ow.ly/K752G

Pinterest: http://ow.ly/K756o

Google: http://ow.ly/K75aO

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium opened in 1906 and is one of the oldest continually-owned family funeral homes in New Hampshire. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels and a cremation society. For more information, go to http://www.phaneuf.net/.

 

Important documents to prepare before you die

End-of-life documents

Nobody wants to think about death and dying, but the fact is, death is an inevitable part of life: A gift you can give your family when you pass is to have your affairs in order so that in addition to losing a loved one, they won’t have the worry of being unable to find the necessary documents needed to carry out your final wishes.

The first step is to put all end-of-life documentation and directives in one secure place and to let your loved ones know where that documentation will be. At your death or if you are unable to make your own decisions, this will greatly help to uncomplicate an already difficult and emotional process for them.

There a number of documents you will need to get in order, but let’s start with the basics. Ask yourself these questions to determine which documents you will need to have:

What do I have and who will I leave it to?

You will need a basic will and an inventory of your assets. This way you can designate who gets your possessions (or else the state may decide) and who will have custody of any minor dependents (or else the courts may decide). A will also indicates who should be the executor of your estate.

Do I have insurance or other benefits?

Have any forms on file that summarize your benefits (such as life insurance or retirement funds) and who the beneficiaries will be.

Do I have financial assets that need to be managed?

Have a financial power of attorney document drawn up to give control of your finances to the person you wish to carry out any monetary transactions.

Who do I want to make health care decisions for me if I am unable to do it myself?

A health care proxy and a medical directive will give someone you choose the power to make medical decisions for you and to carry out any end-of-life wishes if you are unable to do that.

Who do I need to be notified if I die?

Providing your loved one with contacts – personal and professional – will help them inform people of your passing and allow them to connect with utilities and service companies – such as oil delivery – and close your accounts. Also leave information about any credit card accounts – and passwords – so your executor can cancel those accounts.  And don’t forget about social media accounts. Facebook, for instance, requires a “verified immediate family member” to request account removal.

Do I want to be buried? Cremated

Your funeral wishes should be spelled out. Considerations such as whether you want a funeral and burial, cremation, or other wishes should be readily available to family members so that your wishes are carried out.

There are many other records that you will want to gather and keep in a secure place – and of course, inform relatives or executors where they are stored. These are the basics. To get an idea of the other documents you will want to have on hand, see the Wall Street Journal article. “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die,” and check with your lawyer or financial professional for further guidance.

Phaneuf Funeral Homes to Host Free Estate and Funeral Planning Seminar

If anyone is interested in obtaining free legal advice or learning more about estates, wills, trusts, medicade, advanced directives and other related legal issues, we are hosting a seminar at our 243 Hanover Street location on Tuesday October 20th at 2:00 PM.  Attorney Frank Mesmer will be discussing the legal ins and outs of estate planning and will be available to answer your questions.  Following that, I will be speaking on funeral planning, options and funding.  The seminar is limited to 50 people and while it is free, preregistration is required.  To register, call our main office at 603-625-5777 or send me an email at buddy@phaneuf.net.  Just provide your name and the number of people attending.

This is our 10th annual estate and funeral planning seminar and each has been a great success.  After the seminar, which generally lasts around 90 minutes, Attorney Mesmer and I will be available to discuss any specific issues you may have or answer questions one on one.  Come join us for an interesting afternoon.