The digital estate. It's a relatively new thing, springing from the increased availability of the Internet and the boom in social networking sites. Individuals leave email accounts, documents, blogs, profiles and a host of other information on the web. And most of it is password protected.
Nonetheless, family members of the deceased want that information. In fact, they want it so badly that they're now asking state legislatures to give an individual's estate access to sites like Facebook after death.
Is legislating on someone's digital estate a good idea?
Some state legislatures think it is. Last year, Oklahoma was the first state in the country to pass a law that treats Facebook and other sites as part of an individual's estate, reports the Associated Press. A decedent's family can choose to close the account or continue it.
Nebraska, Oregon and New York are currently debating similar legislation.
Still, there are privacy concerns. Many keep email and Facebook accounts private from their families so that they can live without certain types of scrutiny. Under these laws, that privacy is breached unless an estate planning document is explicit about what happens to the decedent's Facebook after death.
Though digital estate planning is the obvious solution to both the overall question and any privacy concerns, it's still a relatively new area of law. Additionally, many individuals die with a will. Still, there may be an even better, alternative solution. When users sign up, can't they be asked who should be given access to their Facebook after death?
- Digital estate planning often forgotten (Seattle Times)
- 'Deleted' Facebook Photos Still Online 3 Years Later (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Is Legal Service by Facebook Coming Soon? (FindLaw's Technologist)