In our 2013 article "
Dealing with Digital Assets in an Estate", we discussed
the importance of identifying, cataloguing, and planning for your
digital assets, an often overlooked aspect of estate planning. In
broad terms, "digital assets" include all of the
electronic possessions an individual may have. A recent survey
conducted by McAfee revealed that the average Canadian values his
or her digital assets at more than $32,000! Such digital assets
include music downloads, e-books, text messages, videos, emails and
social media accounts, such as Facebook. The latter is the focus of
Over the last decade, Facebook has become massively popular with
users of all ages. Approximately 19 million Canadians, more than
half of the population, have an active Facebook account. Users use
the site as a platform for sharing numerous photographs, personal
messages, and other personal information with their social network.
A Facebook account often reveals intimate details of the account
holder's identity. But what happens with all this personal
information after the user's death? Until recently, Facebook
offered to either delete or "memorialize" the user's
account upon request from the personal representative or a family
member. Memorialized accounts can be viewed by friends, but cannot
be managed or altered in any way. Recent changes to Facebook's
account management policy now give users a way to control their
profiles after death by appointing a "legacy
Once Facebook is notified of the account holder's death, the
legacy contact can:
download a copy of all personal data shared on Facebook
(including photographs, videos, wall posts, and profile
write on the Facebook profile to share a remembrance or final
message on behalf of the deceased user;
respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased user;
update the deceased user's profile picture and cover
To protect the privacy of the decedent, Facebook does not allow
the legacy contact to:
log in as the deceased user;
change what is already posted on the profile (for example, the
legacy contact cannot delete photographs or profile updates);
read or download private messages; or
delete the account.
Designating a legacy contact is optional, and if a person passes
away and no legacy contact is chosen, Facebook will continue with
their current memorialization process. Alternatively, Facebook also
gives users the option of requesting that their account be
permanently deleted after their death. Facebook's "legacy
contact" feature is currently only available in the U.S.,
however, it is expected to soon be made available in Canada.
Other tech companies offer similar posthumous account management
options. For example, in 2013, Google introduced "Inactive
Account Manager", a service that lets users decide what will
happen to their Gmail messages and data from other Google services
after a certain period of inactivity.
As most Canadians today have a digital presence, estate planning
for digital assets is critical to preserving the privacy and
personal history of a decedent. Facebook's "legacy
contact" feature, and other services like it, provides users
with a meaningful way of controlling personal data after death.
However, such services are only useful to the extent that users
take advantage of them. It is important to consider digital asset
management as part of your overall estate planning strategy to
ensure that no part of your legacy is forgotten.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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It is not uncommon for parents to provide monetary gifts to their adult children. Parents may wish to help their child with a down payment on a property, or help pay out their child's existing mortgage.
On March 31, 2014, BC's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act1 ("WESA") will come into force. WESA introduces new protections for beneficiaries of estates that are in danger of being disputed or deemed ineffective by a court.
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