August 30, 2009

Internet presence and end-of-life issues

U.S. experts say people who use social networking sites should plan ahead for disposition of their virtual belongings in the event of actual death.

Jeremy Toeman, founder and chief executive officer of Legacy Locker, told the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel online assets have value that people often don't think about in end-of-life planning.

When we have stuff sitting in our house, it's easy to say, 'Well, this ring goes to that person, and this piece of art goes to that person,' Toeman told the Sentinel. But we don't necessarily really think about our Facebook and our PayPal and our eBay accounts, which may have just as much value as something physical.

Legacy Locker is one of several companies that help people manage digital assets, the newspaper reported Sunday. Toeman said online sites and services as a rule will not disclose account information to family members -- who often have to resort to red tape and legal expenses to recover account information.

Legacy Locker charges $30 annually or a one-time fee of $300 for users to store online account information and other data for survivors and beneficiaries. It is also possible for people to inform family members of their passwords or to include information like that in wills, the Sentinel said.