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How should online accounts fit into a will?

Many Twin Cities residents maintain online accounts that hold all manner of personal data, including pictures, bills, bank statements, emails and other sensitive records. And, as readers in Minnesota may be aware, online accounts can potentially cause probate disputes should the account holder become deceased. That is, unless an end-of-life document names a trusted individual to use the necessary passwords and handle the online content. Additionally, businesses such as eBay and Etsy store transaction records online, so if a deceased person has funds in that sort of account, then the funds may continue to float there, inaccessible, if a trusted person isn't named in the deceased person's will. All of these issues could potentially cause problems in probate.

Surprising as it may seem, an application (or "app") offered by Facebook may help Minnesota residents consider some of these important issues in their own estate planning. Facebook's "If I Die" app reminds everyone who wants to keep his or her estate out of probate that end-of-life wishes must be made clear with regard to all accounts, online or not. The "If I Die" app lets users of the social network appoint three trustees who, upon a person's passing, can post to the Facebook wall a message or video that the deceased person has chosen prior to his or her death.

While not everyone may opt for the Facebook app, every Minnesotan who is currently doing estate planning and wants to limit problems in probate will want to carefully read the terms and conditions of any website that can store up personal or financial information. And consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that a trusted person is legally appointed to properly tend to these issues in the future.

Verdict, "Facebook's 'If I Die' App Should Remind Us That We Each Need a Digital Death Plan," Anita Ramasastry, Jan. 17, 2012

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Mason & Helmers
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