The newsLINK Group - A Digital Legacy - What to Expect, How to Prepare

Editorial Library Category: Banking & Finance Topics: Banking Services, Digital Estate Planning Title: A Digital Legacy: What to Expect, How to Prepare Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Everyone knows it’s a good idea to have a will; in this modern digital age, though, it has also become increasingly necessary to have a plan for handling digital estates after someone has died. Editorial: A Digital Legacy: What to Expect, How to Prepare 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 2 deep as Yahoo, Facebook, or Twitter? By working with a banker and a lawyer, it may be possible for a bank customer to avoid the legal fights that can occur when someone (because of health issues or death) cannot handle estate problems directly anymore. Another example, having to do with timeliness and, again, involving Yahoo, came up when Karin Prangley, an estate planning lawyer in Chicago, tried to act on her father’s behalf after he had a stroke at age 62. In particular, she needed access to business records contained in her father’s email account. She was fortunate, in that she was qualified to take the matter to court to get access, but even with her expertise, she wasn’t able to get the courts to move fast enough. The company went out of business because of the inevitable delay. In her case, the delay was only one month, but one month was enough. Could a bank have provided banking information, including at least some business records, as well as the necessary cash flow to keep the business going? It’s possible. Advance Preparation The most significant way a banker and a lawyer can help someone is to make some advance preparations. For example, there are companies whose business consists of storing online account names, passwords, and directives for how clients want to handle their assets after they are incapacitated or die. It might be difficult for a customer to know which companies are reputable. Are they going to go out of business next week, or merge with some other company? Banks that do estate planning can help because they have probably gained multiple experiences dealing with such companies. Although these companies are not old, a banker who has had multiple interactions with them is in a better position to evaluate their services than people whose only concern is their own estate. Another issue to consider is exactly how much personal information should be given to a company that stores information, like passwords and account numbers. Is it really wise for a bank customer to go to an online website and enter all kinds of personal information? Although these companies might play a real part in someone’s plans for a digital legacy, it’s still good idea to have guides for both the legal and the banking aspects. Facebook, which is breaking considerable new ground over the issue of privacy, requires special handling and may represent another time for expert counsel. When people sign up for Facebook, the last thing on their mind is what will happen to their account when they die. But for 5 million people who died after setting up their Facebook account, their families have been left to deal with a problem. Unless someone lets Facebook know that a person has died, the Facebook page is still going to be there. That means a person’s friends and family will continue to see a profile picture on their own pages, and Facebook will also continue suggesting friends. Understandably, getting the suggestion to friend someone who is already dead can make the grieving process harder. Banks that provide estate services can help by providing backup when friends or family contact Facebook with proof of a death, such as a link to an obituary. A page can either be removed or converted to a memorial page. It won’t have any status updates or group affiliations, but existing friends can continue to look at the profile and post comments. What friends and family currently cannot do is get a password from Facebook that would allow them to access private messages, but here again, advice and possible intervention from a trusted member of the planning team might be essential. Although life is definitely more complicated than it used to be because of social media and the Internet, the same issues exist that have always existed. People want to provide comfort and closure to their families and friends.