VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Managing online accounts after death

Many people living in Florida are diligent about estate planning. They've written wills, completed end-of-life planning and updated the beneficiaries on their insurance policies and investment accounts. However, there may be a group of assets that they've neglected to provide for.

Floridians who are active online should consider what they want to happen to their online accounts after they die. Photographs, documents, social media content and email will remain on the internet unless someone takes action to remove or archive it. Since this is a relatively new area of law, it is not always clear what rights an executor or heir may have over this content.

Some companies, such as Facebook or Google, do make provisions for allowing a trusted friend or family member to freeze or manage an account after its owner becomes incapacitated or has died. Other options may include specifically addressing what will happen with digital assets, such as domain names, photographs and social media content in estate planning documents.

People who are engaged in estate planning may also want to consider whether they should assign responsibility for digital assets to a friend or family member who is technologically savvy. As with much of estate planning, clear communication is key to ensuring that the deceased's wishes are carried out and that family members are not burdened with confusing decisions.

Individuals who are concerned about managing their digital assets after death may wish to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. The lawyer may be able to review the client's case and make recommendations regarding ways of quickly and appropriately managing social media accounts and retrieving online content and communications.

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