Include social media accounts in estate plans

It might come as no surprise to Pennsylvania residents that more than a quarter of U.S. residents claim they are constantly online, and about 77 percent of Americans go online daily. The Internet is here to stay, with people shopping, paying bills and interacting online. As easy as it has made our lives, it also complicated it for those who survive us after we are gone.

Though people think long and hard before posting anything on social media — social media presence is often more influential than one’s own physical presence. But, people often do not realize that email accounts, bank accounts, frequent flier accounts and social media are all digital assets that have value — they either have sentimental value in the pictures stored on them or financial value as the frequent flier miles can be exchanged for flights.

When planning one’s estate, these digital assets should be treated the same as other assets. Special arrangements should be made in advance, so the executor can access the information that would be needed in the future.

Getting into one’s own account, if a password is forgotten, is difficult, but imagine how tough it will be for a third-person without the critical information. Passwords to online storage accounts should also be provided if information is being stored in a remote location.

It is important to know that simply providing one’s password to a family member does not guarantee access. Many social media platforms prevent people from unauthorized use of the account, which could include deleting or closing an account. Therefore, it might be beneficial to consult a knowledgeable attorney while estate planning who can explain various options to people wanting to manage their affairs in a timely manner.