Social Media Wills for New Yorkers Might Be a Good Idea

New Yorkers probably don't think of Facebook when they think about estate planning, but the federal government thinks citizens should. A "social media will," as the government dubs it, seems silly at first, but unique problems have cropped up. As social media intertwines with both business and personal affairs, it is important to make plans for their accounts after death.

Some states have even begun adopting Internet probate laws. It makes sense: most Internet users have a mixture of usernames and passwords for many accounts. Without clear documentation of all this, estate administration may be difficult.

At first it seems that writing all account information in a will would solve many of these problems; however, this approach can actually cause serious problems. A will becomes public information once it is admitted to probate, so anyone could access the information. Leaving account access information in a separate document that is then referenced in the will can solve this problem.

It isn't just sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn that pose issues for estate administration, but they do present unique problems. Not everyone would be comfortable with family members gaining access to one's Facebook account, even if it is after death.

Deciding if social media accounts should be shut down or kept up as a memorial is one of the most important decisions to make in a social media will. Facebook allows a user's timeline to remain online as a memorial. Friends and family can post memories and thoughts on the timelines of their departed loved ones. Additionally, Twitter will remove an account if the family produces proof of a person's death.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Social Media Will: An Expert Guide to Your Digital Afterlife," Jacoba Urist, May 14, 2012

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