As you develop your estate plan, it is important to consider all your assets—including those in digital form.
This includes any online accounts, social media profiles, blogs and various digital files that will remain on the internet after your death. Although you might not be able to leave ownership of these items behind in your will, you may at least offer some instructions to your executor on how he or she should handle them.
Technically, social network accounts, email accounts, domain names and other types of digital accounts are not owned by you. Instead, they are licensed to you. Upon your death, the contract you have entered with the provider is over, and that entity decides what will be done with it.
However, you still have some level of control over what will happen to these accounts. The following are some common examples of how you can manage your digital legacy after your passing:
Social networks: Websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have started to develop their own rules regarding what happens to accounts after users die. Facebook, for example, puts accounts into “memorial” status to allow other people to leave behind messages. You can leave behind your access information and request to have certain things deleted or a final status posted before your executor alerts the company to your death.
Email accounts: Again, what happens to email accounts after your death depends on the host used for the service. After a certain period of inactivity (depending on the provider), the account will likely be deleted. Therefore, you should instruct your executor to archive, print, delete or send any emails before the account expires.
Blogs and domain names: People who write blogs and other content often choose to have their executor post a final update about their death. You can also have them take down the blog or archive its content. For licensed domains, you must also decide what you wish to happen for them. You can either transfer, end or continue paying for the license you have on that name.
Online communities: If you belong to online forums or communities, you might wish to have your executor log in to alert other community members to your death or to leave behind one last message.
Digital files: Certain files, such as photos, videos and music, are items you actually own. You may provide information in your estate plan regarding what you wish to happen to these files. You should also provide information about how to access particularly important files.
If you have any questions on how to handle any digital assets as you plan for the years ahead, reach out to an experienced New York estate planning attorney at Lissner & Lissner, LLP.