A couple of weeks ago, Michigan residents may remember that we discussed aspects of a modern estate plan that would avoid probate problems potentially caused by people having online accounts that outlive them. Well, like digital clockwork, Facebook has responded to the problem. The social network has introduced an application (or “app”) that can be used to allow appointed trustees to post video or text messages on a person’s wall, even if he or she is deceased. And, to avoid future probate disputes, readers in the Detroit area may want to look into similar measures with regard to all of their online accounts.
Here is how the app works: when three user-appointed trustees confirm a person’s passing, the app posts on the Facebook wall whatever message or video the deceased person has previously chosen.
The “If I Die” app, as it is called, serves as a good reminder that making end-of-life wishes clear in a will or other legal document almost certainly involves considering what to do with online accounts should the account holder pass away. For most people, all sorts of personal data — photos, emails, bills, bank statements and other financial records — are stored online. And another matter to consider is that many internet businesses such as eBay usually keep their transaction records online. If a person has money in that kind of account, then the funds may remain unclaimed in the ether if a trusted individual or powers of attorney are not named in an estate plan.
To avoid future problems with probate, Michigan residents who are currently doing estate planning may want to carefully read the terms and conditions of any website that can store up personal or financial information. And consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that a trusted person is legally appointed to properly tend to these issues.
Verdict, “Facebook’s ‘If I Die’ App Should Remind Us That We Each Need a Digital Death Plan,” Anita Ramasastry, Jan. 17, 2012