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Probate of will can be complicated by online presence

Planning an estate that adequately reflects your wishes is a main goal for many who take on this process in Nevada. Seeking to leave assets or gifts to an heir or beneficiary, or to avoid probate, many in Nevada create an estate plan using a number of available tools. These planning tools typically include a will or a trust.

Traditionally, many estate plans used wills and trust as the only instruments for an estate. The probate of a will or the actions of a trustee in distributing a trust satisfied the distribution of the material assets that remained after the death of a person. In the case of a will, the probate process was and is public in most situations.

With the advent of social media, there are new questions to be addressed when considering creating an estate plan. With authorities noting that nearly 500,000 with Facebook accounts died in 2011, the questions often revolve around what to do with the online presence of a person after their death. In addition to Facebook accounts, the typical person in Nevada and elsewhere reportedly has 25 password-protected online accounts.

A traditional will that goes through the probate process may be unable to keep up with the frequent changes to passwords and online accounts. In fact, the average person reportedly types up to eight passwords per day. To overcome this problem, officials recommend that a person devising an estate plan create a trust to deal with the online presence. The trustee could be directed to create a memorial page on Facebook or to close online accounts if that were the wishes of the deceased or to take what appropriate action is desired concerning one's Internet presence. The online life of a person is just another important consideration when creating an estate plan.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Government Would Like You to Write a 'Social Media Will'," Rebecca J. Rosen, May 3, 2012

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