Category Archives: digital assets

Bitcoins – Is cybercash real?

You bet it is. In fact, the Australian government recently announced that pension applicants must declare their cyber currency such as Bitcoin. “By including Bitcoin and other digital currencies on one of its standard forms”, the Australian government is recognizing that these are definitely a form of wealth. Many countries are still wrestling with where digital currency fits but Australia has accepted it as part of mainstream finance.  If you have cybercash, make sure you are considering it in your estate planning and are not letting it get lost in the confusion about what to do with digital assets. It’s real money and you should treat it as such.
For more information about estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

What has Facebook done to the accounts of deceased people?

Facebook recently announced that they have changed their rules related to memorializing the account of a deceased person.    In the past, Facebook determined who could see that memorialized page.  Now, the changed rule says that the memorialized page can be seen by the same people as were able to see the page of the living person.  In other words, the decisions made by that person will be honored after his or her death.

Once the account has been memorialized, there can be no modifications to the site.  No friends can be added or deleted, no photos can be modified and no content that was posted by the site owner can be removed.  However, if the privacy settings set up by the deceased allow this, friends may be able to share memories on the memorialized timeline.  And anyone can send private messages to the deceased person.  Why someone would want to do this, I don’t know.  However, it is now allowed.

If you wish to memorialize a loved one’s Facebook page, the place to get started is with the request for memorialization form.  You will be asked for a link to the deceased’s Facebook page.  You will also be asked your relationship to that person, his or her year of death and proof of that death, i.e. a link to an obituary or news article.

Once Facebook has reviewed and approved the submission, the page will be memorialized.

To read more about social media accounts of the deceased, go to www.diesmart.com.

Access to online bank accounts a problem after death

In the “old days”, a paper trail was usually very easy to follow when someone died.  You could find their bank account statements, credit card and utility bills and pension and brokerage account information all tucked away in a file cabinet or a drawer.  Then you  called the contact numbers provided to notify them about the death.

Today, it’s not so simple.

Many of us do our banking online.  All we do is log in, click on those merchants we wish to pay, insert the amount and we’re done.  If we want to transfer money or even deposit a check, no paper has to be used. Everything is done electronically.

Bill paying has also gone paperless.  I can’t remember the last time I received a bill in the mail.  Today I just receive an electronic notification that my bill has been processed for payment.

If I want to know how my portfolio is doing, I log into my brokerage account to check.  I no longer get huge stacks of paperwork every month detailing the value of each investment.  It’s the same with my pension – I just go online and review the numbers.

This is great except for one thing.  It leaves no paper trail for our loved ones to follow when we die.  If we don’t keep good records that list all of the accounts that we manage online as well as the passwords and other information needed to access them, they may never be found and some of our assets may be floating around in cyberspace forever.

For more information about how to plan for incapacity or death, go to www.diesmart.com.

Your digital after life: Does Google’s Inactive Account Manager offer more control?

There has been a lot of discussion and controversy over the last few years about what happens to your digital assets when you die.

Earlier this week, Google took a stab at solving this issue for its users when it announced the launch of its Inactive Account Manager.  This is a system that enables you to tell Google “what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.”

First, using Inactive Account Manager, you can tell Google when you want your account to be treated as inactive and “time out”.  You can choose from three, six, nine or twelve months.  At the end of that period, Google will try to contact you by text or secondary email to be sure you really meant to “time out”.

Second, you can add up to ten friends or family members who should be notified that your account is inactive.  The assumption is that you’re deceased if you have let your account go inactive.  However, hopefully, if you’re just traveling around the world and don’t have access to email or you’ve decided to hibernate for a year and not go online, one of your friends or family members will let Google know.

What happens when your account becomes inactive?  You can choose to share your data with one or more of those friends or family members OR you can instruct Google to delete your account.  In that case, all associated data will be deleted including things such as your publicly shared YouTube videos, Google+ posts or blogs on Blogger.

With the new Inactive Account Manager, Google thinks it will avoid some of the conflicts that occur today when relatives of the deceased want access to their data and, in many cases, can’t get it.  With Inactive Account Manager, you will designate what happens to the data.  If you want a family member to get it, you indicate the data you want shared and with whom.

But what if your wishes conflict with those of a  family member or close friend?  According to a Google spokesperson, “we will honor the preference you’ve made in Inactive Account Manager to the extent permitted by law.”

We wondered what an attorney would think of Google’s new tool and contacted Daniel I. Spector, Esq., a lawyer with Spector Weir, LLP in Sacramento, CA.  According to Dan, “It’s a nifty first attempt at dealing with this tricky issue, but I believe the solution is ahead of the law.  The information in one’s account is an asset ” and “the law wisely requires certain steps to be taken before a person can…..take possession of a dead person’s assets.”  Someone who is appointed the executor or trustee of the estate must have their appointment recognized by the court and must follow set procedures for identifying and distributing assets.  They can’t arbitrarily be given to a friend or relative without going through the legal process.  Someday the law will catch up with what Google wants to do but it’s not there yet.

For more information about digital assets and the way companies like Facebook and Twitter handle them after someone has died, go to http://diesmart.com.  You can also find information there about probate and what it means.

Social Networking Accounts: Who controls them after you die?

If State Representative Peter Sullivan of New Hampshire has his way, the executor or administrator of your estate could take control of your social media and other digital accounts after you die.

According to Sullivan, “The way we conduct our business as a society and the way our laws regulate how we communicate as a society have not kept up with technology.”

Since 2005, a few states have enacted their own laws dealing with digital assets after death. However, most of these laws are very weak and only go part of the way toward solving the problem.

And the Uniform Law Commission  last August appointed a committee to draw up a law that would “vest fiduciaries with the authority to access, manage, distribute, copy or delete digital assets and accounts,” according to a draft.

The commission is a nonpartisan group that produces legislative language that can then be introduced and adopted in individual states, with the goal of creating uniform legal standards across state lines.

Sullivan’s bill would ensure that, in New Hampshire at least, the executor of a dead person’s estate “shall have the power, where otherwise authorized, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any accounts of a deceased person on any social networking website, any microblogging or short message service website, or any email service website.”

“This would essentially extend the powers of the administrator or executor of the state to basically step into the shoes of the deceased,” Sullivan said, taking control of the account and making the decision either to continue operating it or shut it down.

Sullivan said he was inspired to file his bill after several high-profile cases of bullying that led to teenagers’ suicides. In some cases, he said, the bullying continued online even after death, and families faced difficulty gaining control of those social-media profiles.

“The law is very vague as to the power of survivors to do something about it,” he said.  His bill, he added, is “going to bring the law up to date.”

Sullivan’s bill (HB 116) went before the State House Judiciary Committee for review this week.

Is everyone in support of this bill?

According to Rebecca Jeschke, a digital rights analyst at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation,  “There can be privacy pitfalls, though, to granting posthumous access to digital accounts. I personally don’t want my family to be able to read my email or other private online activity after I die. It’s private for a reason, after all. I’d be pretty suspicious of any bill that doesn’t default to allowing privacy for people even after they passed.”

Whether your state has a digital asset law or not, you can still take a few steps to protect your assets.

1. Make a list of all of your digital assets. The list should include your password for each. If it is easier, think about buying a password tracker like Roboform to handle this for you.

2. Think about what you want someone to do with your digital assets after your death. Who do you want to have access to them when you’re gone? Do you want them destroyed, memorialized, archived or transferred to someone else. It might be a good idea to write a letter concerning this issue and to keep it with your important papers.

3. When you prepare your will, trust and power of attorney documents, include a clause giving your representative authority to access your digital accounts. Even if your state law doesn’t cover the digital world, this clause may help your representative gain access to your accounts and to comply with your wishes.

For more information about this subject and others, go to www.diesmart.com.