Lee Poskanzer, CEO and Founder, Directive Communication Systems blogged about Privacy Afterlife in Digital Beyond – a blog about your digital existence and what happens to it after your death
Privacy Matters. In fact, 4 out of 5 people believe privacy matters more than access to their accounts in the event of their death. It’s an important and necessary consideration for any estate plan. When it comes to our online accounts, we’ve come to expect a certain amount of privacy. It’s an expectation that people won’t be able to have access to our files, communications and other activities that we conduct
An estimated 70% of people wish for their private online actions to remain so in the event of their demise. However, this is often a forgotten aspect of the estate planning process. The responsibility falls to the professionals assisting in the planning process. Although these people wish to retain their privacy and don’t necessarily want their Personal Representative to have complete control, they may not know that they’re actually able to dictate what happens with each individual account.
Online directives are not a one-size-fits-all situation. This is where estate professionals must take the reins. They must become well-versed in the minutiae associated with online accounts to best maintain a client’s privacy. It may be a tedious process, but it is up to the law offices that specialize in estate handling to prepare clients for online account management in order to shore up a client’s entire estate.
Imagine, the idea of one person having complete access to every action you’ve ever performed online. Chances are, even as an estate professional, there are some skeletons in the online closet that you don’t want left to one person to handle or even know about. It is the intense desire for continued privacy that a lawyer’s position in the estate planning business has become somewhat more precarious.
In accordance with legislation, a person’s accounts may be rendered inaccessible without a specific directive or unless one of these accounts has evidence of cash value. Due to these new laws, a client can’t simply assume that his best friend will be able to access and delete anything he doesn’t want to be seen. There needs to be a personalized line item in the estate plan in order for the best friend to be granted access to the contents of the accounts and determine what needs to be kept, and dispose of anything else.
All too often, these accounts are neglected, albeit unintentionally, and the sensitivity of the clients can lead to it not being handled in an orderly fashion. An online directive assists in eliminating the feelings that can be associated with the handling of web accounts. A shocking number of people, 65%, state that there would a sense of violation should their family members have complete access to every aspect of their accounts.
As legal professionals, it would be a disservice to the clients involved if it weren’t spelled out to them that they have options. As an example, it may include a detailed plan in place for what happens with Facebook content (i.e. photos, videos, etc.) versus who controls the message content, and clients need to be made aware that they’ve got these options. Thankfully, Facebook’s latest updates include the option for legacy contact. This contact is able to change information on a memorialized account so that a family member can remember their loved one through photos and videos without having access to their private messages.