Estate planning must include social media


By Megan Tran

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Advisers should help clients understand how their social media accounts might be affected if they lose capacity or pass away and include these as part of discussions around a client's estate, according to Australian Unity Trustees national manager estate planning Anna Hacker.

“Digital footprints on death are an issue of growing importance as social media usage steadily proliferates not just with generation Z and millennials but increasingly with older generations as well,” Hacker told financialobserver.

She added that social media and digital assets would become an increasingly important part of the overall estate planning discussion as clients opt into a paperless relationship with product and service providers.

“If all their statements, renewals [and] invoices are sent via email, and then no one can access their email account, this will create havoc for their executor or next of kin who then attempt to navigate this minefield,” she said.

Hacker pointed out that many social and digital platforms tended to operate in offshore jurisdictions, meaning there was no uniform legal process if the user was to pass away.

She predicted that these areas would become a bigger part of estate planning and also of familial conflict, with increasing incidences of next of kin attempting to access social media accounts in a similar way to family conflicts over personal items in a client's will.

“The future of estate litigation will be in the digital realm and the adviser who is at the forefront in this area will be able to shift the conversation with clients to not just forward planning but also protection”, she said.

“Relationships are born of social media interactions, not just in a general sense but in a very real and personal way.”

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