What is Social Media’s Role in Estate Planning?

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Passare.com shutterstock 429506236 What is Social Media’s Role in Estate Planning? social media presence Social media Estate planning Digital Assets Digital asset Chicago Tribune


One facet of any modern estate plan is factoring in your social media presence. We came across an interesting story in the Chicago Tribune that offers tips on how to do it.
“Small-business owners with social media pages tied to their companies or couples who share music accounts or anyone who wants control over their online presence from the grave, should think ahead about their digital assets, said Jamie Hopkins, associate director of the Retirement Income Program at The American College of Financial Services. “Remember, whenever you create a digital asset through a third-party service provider, that provider will likely control the terms of service in a customer agreement.”

The first thing you can do get prepared is arm yourself with knowledge. It’s important you know what’s in your online agreements; pay close attention to accounts where you spend a lot of money. For example, if an online agreement does not allow you to transfer digital music, “writing into your Will that you want a certain relative to inherit your account won’t do much good,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins believes many of these companies strict policies are less concerned with passing down digital assets to heirs and more concerned about identity theft.

And “the simple reality is few people really do much estate planning, and even fewer think about working their digital lives into those plans,” said David Goldman, an attorney who has developed software that manages online assets. “Honestly, I just don’t think the market is ready for this yet,” he said, noting that most people in America are reluctant to think about End-of-Life.

If you are ready to get your digital house in order, Hopkins offered a few helpful tips for managing your social media and online presence.

Social media. If you run a small business that has social media sites, make sure all your accounts are registered in the name of the business so the accounts can live on in the event of your passing.

Spreadsheets. For many, the best way to protect your digital assets is doing it the old way, by storing your information in spreadsheets and making sure your family knows where they are. “You need to track every website where you have a digital account, from banks to Google and Facebook,” Hopkins said. “A lot of people forget they have accounts at places like Home Depot, but they need to remember their websites may have your credit card and other information, and it’s vulnerable to identity theft.”

Wills. Don’t put passwords or your login information for websites into your Will. Wills are subject to probate court, which means the information will become public. Keep passwords and other access information in a spreadsheet where loved ones can access it.

Read the story here.


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