In a prior Welts, White & Fontaine blog, (“Should your Executor Have Control of Your Social Media Accounts?”) Attorney Davi Peters discussed how Digital assets are a relatively new area to consider when determining how to distribute your assets after death and highlighted some pending legislation giving executors of an estate access to these accounts after death.
Social media accounts are considered a digital asset. Online content can have both sentimental and, in some cases, commercial value that you may want to leave as part of your estate planning legacy. For example, Facebook currently allows family members to have an account deleted or turned into a memorial page by preventing updates to the page and its contents other than posts from friends on a restricted “memorial” timeline.
Google’s Inactive account manager, by contrast, is a way for users to notify someone if their Google account has been inactive for a certain period of time. The process is simple. To set up Inactive Account Manager, go to www.google.com/settings and click on the setup link under Account Management. Then click on “control what happens to your account when you stop using Google.” You are then given several options. You can elect when you want Google to end your account- 3, 6, 9, or 12 months after going inactive.
The program allows anyone who uses Google services, including Gmail but also +1s, Contacts, Drive, Google+, Hangouts, Picasa, Profile, Reader and YouTube. Google allows you to designate up to 10 people to be contacted when Google deactivates your account for the preselected amount of time. The contacts will then have 3 months to download the data you have selected for them to receive. You can also write the individual a message, which will be sent along with the notification. You can also simply have Google delete all the information on your account, with or without notification to anyone.
Google’s program called Inactive Account Manager indicates a growing awareness by social media companies of the importance of managing online information in the event of a serious illness or death. Our clients should plan for their online accounts just as they plan for their important financial information and should take steps to manage and protect their digital footprints.