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What will your digital ghost look like?

Social media apps, digital world

Posts on Facebook, comments on YouTube and re-tweets on Twitter will live on after death, raising several estate planning considerations, an estate planner has said.

The number of Facebook accounts held by people who are dead could outnumber those of the living by 2060, Australian Unity Trustees wills and estates accredited specialist Anna Hacker said.

This is only going to become more pronounced as entire generations grow up using social media, she added.

“Essentially our Facebook pages, as well as our YouTube comments and other social media interactions, will live on after we die, a trend that will only increase as social media becomes more entrenched in our everyday lives,” Ms Hacker said.

“Ownership of digital assets is a difficult legal area, as legislation and the social media platforms themselves have struggled to keep up with developments, but it is nevertheless an area that should be considered in your estate planning.”

Continuing, she said it’s important to remember that the value of digital assets goes beyond sentiment and memories.

“Digital wallets such as PayPal can have amounts of money stored on them, internet domain names can have value and can sometimes be sold, and the musings of bloggers can even be a type of intellectual property,” Ms Hacker explained.

“For investors in bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency such as ethereum, litecoin and ripple, considering the value of their cryptocurrency – and what will happen to it if you die – can be an even bigger consideration.”

This is due to the evolving regulations standards for cryptocurrency.

“A bank will put a stop on your account when informed by an executor and account assets are considered in the probate process. This will not necessarily be the case with cryptocurrency accounts,” Ms Hacker said.

She said Australians should factor their digital assets into their estate plan, with instructions on the location and access of these assets.

Pointing to the NSW decision to consider the laws governing social media access after death, Mr Hacker said the “welcome development” won’t produce any findings for at least another year.

“That doesn’t mean people need to wait until then to consider the place of digital assets in their wills,” she said.

What will your digital ghost look like?
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