How Facebook could ruin your will

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?

Related articles:
Preparing for your digital death
Death in the digital age
Facebook after death

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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