Could social media endanger your assets?

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A Melbourne lawyer is warning older Australians that their wills and estates could be endangered by their online activities.

Rigby Cooke partner and accredited wills and estates specialist Rachael Grabovic says that certain instructions handed down by a testator (person who holds a will) to an executor to access social media accounts such as Facebook and iTunes may breach agreements or contracts with these companies and could be grounds for removal of an executor.

Ms Grabovic explains that even if under instruction, accessing something like a Facebook account to delete unflattering photos or posts, or accessing Kindle Books with a login and password provided by the testator constitutes a breach of the licence agreement entered into by the deceased. This could be sufficient grounds to seek the removal of an executor by a disgruntled beneficiary, which could impede the timely administration of the estate.

“An executor should be able to carry out their duties without the fear of legal repercussions,” said Ms Grabovic. 

“A beneficiary under a will who is aggrieved with the actions of the appointed executor could seek to have an executor removed on the grounds that the executor has performed an illegal act by following the instructions of the deceased.”

According to a Charles Sturt University and University of Adelaide survey, 71 per cent of respondents didn’t know what would happen to their digital assets in the event of their deaths. Ms Grabovic advises families to begin having conversations about how to handle digital assets after death.

“So many people don’t think about the potential complexities around their digital assets and some may not even think of them as assets,” said Ms Grabovic.

“As more digitally literate and active Australians age, it will become more and more important to consider digital assets when reviewing your estate planning.”

Were you aware that such activity could be a breach of contract and may adversely affect your will? How would you like your digital assets handled once you die?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

9 Comments

Total Comments: 9
  1. 0
    0

    Facebook is the most evil uncontrolled social experiment that has ever occurred
    It make the social damage done to societies by all our past and present dictators look like a walk in park.

  2. 0
    0

    My father had his will with the NSW Public Trustee who were also the Executor. They were hopeless, took too long to handle a very simple estate and charged ridiculous amounts. Added to the fact that there was little communication by them and each time we phoned there was a new person handling the case. We would have loved to sack them. Not as easy, as made out in this article. In fact, impossible.

    • 0
      0

      Never ever have your estate administered by the Public Trustee! As you found out, they are slow, expensive and disorganised! Much better off having a family member [son, daughter, even younger sister or brother] to handle your will, sort out probation and deal with the estate

  3. 0
    0

    Nothing more than a pure plug for a wills and estates company. Parroting that businesses press release is lazy journalism 🙁

  4. 0
    0

    Thanks for the article. As usual, you never provide answers.

  5. 0
    0

    On 26th June 2013, YLC wrote an article stating:
    Facebook has a very specific death policy in place whereby it will either memorialise a person’s profile or permanently delete the profile upon request. Memorialising a profile allows friends of that person to view and post on the person’s profile, with the profile no longer indexed in search and the account locked from posting status updates. Permanently deleting the profile will remove any trace of the account and requires a copy of the person’s birth or death certificates or proof of authority to be submitted to Facebook.

    Seems very clear and legally binding if you are the executor. It’s just another account to be closed, like a phone account, etc.


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