What Happens To My Facebook Account When I Die?: Estate Planning In A New Age

Posted on August 31, 2011

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Estate planning can be an overwhelming process even if you’re just thinking of preparing a will, much less dealing with life insurance, retirement accounts, and planning for incapacity.  As a practice area at Red Mountain Law, we would like to offer helpful tips and instructions for responsible estate planning.

When it comes to estate planning, the best course of action is to plan ahead and to communicate effectively with family members and other important individuals regarding your plans, both with respect to the distribution of your assets at your death and with respect to your wishes regarding end-of-life care.  According to Saabira Chaudhuri, contributing reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the essential documents to have on hand where you and your family members can reach them include a will, a durable power of attorney, and a document appointing a healthcare proxy (called an advance healthcare directive in Alabama).  Chaudhuri also argues that a revocable or living trust is beneficial, but this document is actually not necessary for most Alabama residents because our probate process is quite inexpensive compared to many other states. It is often not worth the hassle of trying to avoid it and may unnecessarily increase the costs of your estate planning. Having these original documents in place is important so that your family doesn’t have to rely on the default provisions for distribution of assets under state law, which may not coincide with your own wishes.

In addition to acquiring the necessary documents, it is important to keep them together and in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or fireproof safe in your home.  Make sure your family members know where your documents are and how to access them — give an extra key or the combination to a trusted relative or friend. Another integral step to the estate planning process is communicating with your family about the assets you own. Chaudhuri recommends keeping your marriage license and divorce decree, if applicable, as well as various proofs of ownership (including deeds to land and cemetery plots, stock certificates, and car titles) with your will. It’s also wise to leave a list of your other assets, including bank accounts and life insurance policies, with your important papers to ensure that the state doesn’t end up with unclaimed assets that should have passed to your family. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, state treasurers have approximately $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts and other assets.

Another rising issue in estate planning surrounds the growth in involvement on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. Often, these accounts are not resolved after a death, and it is advisable to compile a list of logins and passwords and plans to disable accounts after a death, if that is the desired plan of action. In addition, you should discuss the fate of other personal items such as journals and letters with your family members so that they can dispose of them as you desire.

Thinking ahead and setting out a comprehensive action plan for your assets does your loved ones a great service. Communicating with family regarding all aspects of your estate, including those personal assets that may not traditionally be covered in a will, are crucial matters in today’s world of online banking, social networking, and other assets that aren’t easily reflected on paper.

Brooke Everley
Everley Law, LLC

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