Estate Planning has Evolved Into Social Media from the Grave

The climate of estate planning is certainly changing. With technology constantly advancing, the possibilities are endless for what we are capable of. As a result, many private companies have started dealing with the issues related to online access of accounts after the death of the account holder. While this is not directly related to something you would talk to your estate planning attorney about, it is a pressing issue that needs attention.

Yahoo Japan has started to market a new service to customers, called Yahoo Ending, that includes burial and wake preparations, as well as a service that allows you to pre-record messages to love ones. This is very similar to the estate planning services offered at many law firms. However, this unique service also permits the account holder to designate which files and photos should be deleted from their accounts upon their death and which should get sent to family members. It also will delete the account completely after death for the account holder.

This service is the beginning of what I expect to be many, in dealing with social media accounts, of a deceased loved one. Many family members do not have passwords needed to access these accounts, such as Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, or other online networks, which have become an integral part of daily life.

So here is the big question…. How does Yahoo Japan know when a user has died? Upon registration each account holder receives a booking number to share with someone they trust. When they die, that person then calls the company with that booking number and then the deceased person’s preferences are shared with their designated family members or friends. A funeral home must also send a notice of sorts in order to trigger the sending of emails requested and the deletion of files and the account as a whole. This company raising a whole new genre of issues to consider in your estate planning; namely dealing with your social media.