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Google provides estate planning option for online accounts

When contemplating estate planning matters, most California residents likely think about documents such as a will or trust. With the advent of the digital age, however, questions related to estate planning matters and an individual's virtual identity have become a growing issue.

Technology giant Google recently announced a new dashboard which allows individuals to dictate what happens to their online accounts and information after they die. The dashboard relates to information contained on Google-affiliated websites such as Gmail, YouTube, Picasa photo albums and Google Plus. Using the new dashboard, individuals are able to delete accounts or pass ownership and control of such accounts to others.

Google's move to address virtual estate planning is the first of what is likely to become a growing industry as Americans continue to conduct more of their everyday lives via online websites. Google decided to implement the new dashboard in response to growing concern over legal and privacy matters that often crop up when an individual dies.

While Google now allows users to control accounts from the grave, many other social media and online accounts don't currently offer such services. It's wise, therefore, for individuals to include detailed information in their estate planning documents related to online account information. To aid loved ones in obtaining and managing online information and accounts, individuals would be wise to ensure they make note of specific accounts that exist as well as all login and password information related to each account.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Google Lets Users Plan 'Digital Afterlife' By Naming Heirs," Geoffrey A. Fowler, April 11, 2013

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