As we approach the end of another year, it’s a good time to have an important discussion with your family and other loved ones about what will happen when you die. It may be uncomfortable but it’s a gift you should give them before any more time passes.
You should tell them about your estate plan – not necessarily all of the details but where it can be found, that it is up to date and who you have named as your executor. The estate plan should, at a minimum, include your will and your advanced directive; it might also include a trust, a healthcare proxy and a durable power of attorney. You should reassure them that the plan is current and reflects your wishes at the present time. (If it doesn’t, you should get it updated immediately.)
Another critical thing you should discuss is your digital assets. If you pay your bills and conduct other financial transactions online, your executor should be able to access your accounts. The only way to ensure that this is possible is if you leave a list of your passwords for all of them.
You should make sure they know about any accounts that have beneficiary designations and that those designations are up to date. Otherwise, someone who is no longer in your life may inherit from those accounts rather than the person you really want the funds to go to.
Finally, you should discuss with your family and other loved ones your end of life care wishes. It’s not a pleasant topic but you should not burden them with having to make decisions which may not agree with what you would have wanted.
This is an important holiday gift that you should give to your loved ones this year.
For more information about making a digital asset inventory and other end of life decisions, go to www.diesmart.com.
Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a very broad statute that protects digital privacy rights.
Called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, it does not allow any law enforcement agency to force a business to turn over any metadata or digital communications without a warrant. The new legislation seems to be the most comprehensive in the United States.
Here’s an article from Slate we found that provides lots of details about the new California law.
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.
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.
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.