We’ve talked about digital assets in a couple of recent blog posts, highlighting the need to include your digital assets in your plan and discussing how frequent flyer miles and rewards points may be treated when you die. But, what happens when the digital assets in question are not yours, but were instead those of your minor child? That’s the question one British family struggled with recently after their 14-year old daughter took her own life.
The teen had an iPhone and other electronic devices and used those to access Instagram and other social media sites. After her death, the girl’s parents believed they might find clues about why their daughter made the choice she ultimately made. Unfortunately, they struggled to gain access to her devices and accounts. When they did ultimately gain access to her Instagram account, they were shocked by some of the profiles and information shared on that platform. Her father believes Instagram played a role in his daughter’s death.
This tragic situation raises interesting questions. First, minors cannot legally enter into contractual agreements, nor can they sign valid Wills or other estate planning documents. However, in order to register for an online account with Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, Venmo, or any other online service provider, users must acknowledge their understanding of the site’s terms of service. So, should a parent or legal guardian be able to void a child’s acceptance of an online service agreement and access information and messages the child has captured and shared using the site? And, is the answer to that question different depending on whether a child is living or deceased?
There are, unfortunately, no easy answers to these questions. As young adults’ use of social networking and other online platforms grows, these are issues that will need to be addressed.
We can help you document your wishes for your estate plan, including disposition of and access to your own digital assets and online accounts. Contact us today to get started!