Life After Death through Social Media

Yes, Virginia, there is social media after death.  Almost anything lingers forever in cyberspace, long after you’ve left this earthly plane.  Just check the online “wayback” machines for proof of this.  Yet, many of us don’t think about what happens to our social media connections when setting forth an estate plan but digital asset management is essential.

As we’ve discussed, you cannot leave your digital libraries to anyone per the terms of most online retailers.  So, what happens to your Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and assorted other social media accounts?  The short answer is they linger…forever…sort of like a cyber eternal flame of stupidity.

Image courtesy: Kromkrathog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy: Kromkrathog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everyone needs an estate plan and everyone needs to share our top-secret passwords with someone, preferably our executor, before we go.  It sounds easy but during these days of heightened paranoia, with many of us ultra-vigilant about cyber-security (at least, I hope so), we change passwords frequently.  So, what’s a social butterfly to do?  Leave a “Letter of Instruction” with your attorney and/or executor, or place the letter in a safe place and TELL your executor where to locate it.  Let’s face it, we all should trust at least one other person, right?

More than a dozen states have already implemented digital estate management laws in varying degrees, allowing executors to access online accounts. Yahoo and Google have recently implemented an “after death” policy whereby an authorized party can provide a copy of your death certificate and Google will close your account and delete your Flickr photos.  They even added an “inactive account manager” to their sites so you can determine now, while you’re still breathing, what happens to your “cyber stuff” if there’s been no account activity for a pre-set period of time.  I think that’s the way to go.  Even if you’re still breathing, if there’s been no activity in your account for at least a year, I think the social media sites should delete you anyway.  Can you imagine the costs of server maintenance for all of these “dead accounts,” pun intended.  I expect many other social sites will start to think about the departed, or nearly departed, very soon.

Westchester lawyer says you can’t be a twit about tweets!

Like it or not, social networking is here to stay…………at least till the next best thing comes along.  Small businesses, big corporations, can no longer avoid using Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to the street.  These platforms are not just for kids and the lovelorn any longer.  Even attorneys need to take the big plunge, if they haven’t done so already.  True, most of a law firm’s clients come through referrals, but in this down economy you should be asking yourself  if you can afford to turn away any business opportunity right now.

So, what should you keep in mind when jumping off the social network diving board?  Here are the Top 5 tips in the humble opinion of this Westchester lawyer:

1.  Make a commitment and stick to it.  There is nothing worse than clicking on a Facebook, Twitter or Linked In profile page which has not been updated in a month, three months, or even a year.

2.  Have a game plan.  Set forth your “networking” plan based on what you are trying to sell.  Do not post a profile and hope that someone will be attracted to your name and address, no matter how prime the location.

3.  Have something to say and say it often.  Offer bits of advice or tips or strategies that promote your business and/or benefit your target demographic.

4.  Learn the platform’s etiquette.  If a fellow tweep (that’s a follower for those on Twitter) is nice enough to re-tweet something that you have posted, be kind enough to thank them and also look to re-tweet something of interest which they post as well.  One hand washes the other.

5.  Build a loyal and targeted following.  Porn-bots and spam-bots will automatically target you and want to follow you.  It might be attractive to get your numbers up quickly but these are not the type of followers for most demographic groups – unless you’re selling performance enhancing drugs or toys of another sort!

It’s time – get off your perch and start tweeting!

Westchester attorney warning social surfers to protect against Granny Scam

Several months ago this Westchester attorney advised my social networking friends, readers and assorted other surfers against revealing too much about your personal lives and relationships on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and the like.  Many of you reading this think it’s great to tell the world about your cousin’s reunion or post photos of your baby’s Christening but I am telling you again that this is a HUGE mistake and now well-meaning grandparents are paying the price.  The Better Business Bureau says scammers are culling info from these “social networking” sites and preying upon Granny and Gramps to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

The way the scam works is that the thieves troll cyberspace……they find the names of a web of relatives and then call Granny and Gramps posing as their loving grandchildren in need of money.  Unsuspecting grandparents in 19 states and Canada have fallen victim so far.  Don’t become another sad statistic.

PLEASE LISTEN TO ME THIS TIME.  Delete your birthday and family info from your profiles.  Ignore all of those family linking applications which create your family tree for your profile.  Don’t you think your grandparents and Cousin Mary already know they’re related to you?  Do you really need to tell everyone on Facespace or Mybook that your related to these people?  Why not give the scammers and the identity thieves a roadmap to your house with the  password to your bank accounts?  You’ve given them everything else except your social security number………….oh no, don’t tell me, you’ve profiled that as well!!!

Use social networks for promoting businesses or reconnecting with old business acquaintances and friends and leave the personal data for those closest to you IRL (in real life).  Get the picture?