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How should our online accounts be handled after death?

People in Ohio and others living elsewhere log onto their Facebook accounts on a daily basis. Use of social networks has grown tremendously in recent years. However, what happens to our online accounts when we die?

Close to 600,000 people with Facebook accounts will die this year. Because this technology is still relatively new, this situation brings up some interesting legal questions.

Family members and friends can memorialize a deceased individual's Facebook page. However, questions remain as to whether or not that is what the deceased individual wanted. In addition, who should be allowed to make decisions regarding an individual's online account? Also, how long should the account remain as a memorial to the individual who passed away?

As the world continues to change, people's estate plans may need to evolve. For instance, it would be wise for people to make clear what they would like to have happen to their online accounts. If advanced plans aren't made, these kinds of issues may need to be settled through probate litigation.

However, social media companies may also need to adapt their policies to prevent drawn out legal battles. For instance, just like people indicate whether or not they are willing to be an organ donor on their driver's licenses, people may need to indicate how their accounts should be handled after death on the sites themselves.

As this story indicates, estate planning can be complex. There are many things for people to think about. In order to avoid issues in the future, people would be wise to make detailed estate plans and update them as changes occur.

Source: Forbes, "After Death Your Facebook Account May Become the Subject of a Lawsuit," Greg McNeal, Feb. 28, 2013

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