Tag Archives: Digital assets

What Happens To Your Yahoo Japan Digital Assets When You Die?

On Monday, Yahoo Japan announced “Yahoo! Ending”, a program designed to help Yahoo Japan users plan for their death.   The search engine, in partnership with funeral services company Kamakura Shinsho, helps Yahoo Japan users make a will, find a grave, and plan their funeral.    Once Yahoo Japan confirms the user has died, the service will set up a memorial site, send out digital farewell messages, and delete personal data from Yahoo’s on line system.      In the future, Yahoo Ending could be expanded to work with credit card, insurance and other companies to manage a wider scope of personal data left behind when users pass away.

Yahoo Ending answers the question “what happens to your Yahoo Japan digital assets when you die”.  Once Yahoo Japan receives proof of death, Yahoo Japan assumes it has the legal authority to delete digital assets created and stored on Yahoo Japan.

In the United States, Yahoo digital assets are in fact part of the estate of the deceased.   Before we created our digital life, we stored photos and art in an album or a picture frame.   Our emails and text messages were paper letters and notes stored in a file cabinet.    When someone dies, the estate representative is required by law to take an inventory of property owned by the deceased and assign a value to the property, including their digital assets.    The estate representative is then required by law to dispose of property the deceased owned based on instructions left in a will or a trust, or state intestate laws if the decedent died without a will or a trust.   In today’s paper world, estate representatives or beneficiaries must provide documents providing they are managing the assets according to the wishes of the deceased.    In a paper world, proof of death does not trigger the automatic deletion or destruction of property owned by the decedent.

The question “what happens to our digital assets” continues to be the subject of legal debate as the internet service providers and the legal infrastructure grapple with the rules and processes for managing and disposing of digital assets that are in fact part of our estate.

We need programs and policies that don’t just deal with the death of the account owner, but also provide a way for trustees and conservators to manage our digital assets in the case of incapacity.

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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.

HIPAA for Digital Assets?

According to Professor Jason Mazzone, University of Illinois, College of Law, ” people spend an increasing part of their lives using Facebook and other online social networking sites. However, virtually no law regulates what happens to a person’s online existence after his or her death”.

The professor’s recently published a paper, “Facebook’s Afterlife”, calls for federal laws to regulate what happens to a digital account after the death of its account holder. Mazzone states that Facebook and other online service policies don’t adequately protect the individual property and privacy interests of a deceased user’s account. He says “Social networking sites determine on their own what, if anything, to do with a deceased user’s account and the materials the user posted to the site….It’s a little like letting the bank decide what to do with your money after you die.”

He suggests that HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a comparable mandate. He wants a federal HIPAA-like law to protect peoples’ digital data after their death. It’s an interesting idea and one that is worth thinking about.