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.
You probably have a will and/or a trust that covers what you want done with your personal assets when you die. But do you have a formal succession plan for your small business?
According to the Small Business Administration, about 90% of businesses are owned by a family. And about 90% of those family business owners believe that their business will be kept in the family when they can no longer run it. However, according to the Family Business Institute, only about 30% of family and businesses survive into the second generation.
Planning for your succession is critically important and has implications for your employees, business structure, assets and tax obligation, but it isn’t easy.
You should think about who you want to take over your business if something happens to you. Choosing someone to replace you as head of your organization may be as simple as appointing a family member who has been working in the business. On the other hand, there may be several people from whom you will have to choose and each may have different strengths and weaknesses. The correct decision is vital; it may cause family conflict and turmoil which, in turn, may impact the continued success or future failure of the company.
Another thing to think about is whether you want to sell your business to family members or just give it to them. This may have tax implications for your estate and for those family members.
If you have partners, do you have a buy/sell agreement with them?
There are several different business succession planning strategies. Make sure you speak with an estate planner who is skilled in this area, explore the options and create the plan that will be the best option for your small business.
Do you have a list of all of your automatic payments? If you receive paper bills and then write checks to cover them, there’s no problem. When you die, your heirs can just notify those companies who are sending the bills that you are deceased and they can close the accounts. But if you have payments automatically taken out of your checking account or charged to a credit card every month, your heirs will not find paper bills and may not know who they need to notify.
Even though Richard Palmer, Sr.’s family thought they had closed his bank account after he died, a month later it sprang back to life and started processing incoming charges (this type of account is called a zombie bank account) and electronic payments kept being made….until there was an overdraft of $888,888!
You should make a list of all of the automatic payments that are made on your behalf every month and put a list of those payments with your important papers. That way, your family will know who to contact after you’re gone and they won’t find themselves with a huge overdraft like the family of Richard Palmer, Sr.