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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FB - "If I die' ....... digital inheritance - a peculiar case In New Zealand

In Hinduism, we have the concept of rebirth as also moksha ‘the eternal salvation’;  to us the ‘atman’ (soul) is different than the body.  The body can be damaged but the atman cannot be. What happens after death is always a taunting Question. Most of us have a Facebook Account and many spend hours in that ....some  studies state that those with the most contacts, those who had invested the most time in the site, were the ones most likely to be stressed.  Even children are anxious about posting something and about the reaction – of likes and other things on their post.  Catching the attention of others is what most like to do.  From its beginnings in Feb 2004 to what it is, Facebook certainly has traversed long attracting millions of youngsters creating their profile, exchanging messages, notifying things and  pasting up their best photos and what they like most.  I had couple of years ago posted on the (then) new application in FB -     “If I Die” – which allows people to  create their own video or text message that is stored on a secured server until he or she passes away, at which time “If I Die” posts the video or text message to his or her Facebook page. To prevent premature posting to the user’s Facebook profile, “If I Die” requires users to appoint three “trustees” who will be responsible for verifying the user’s death.  Thus in its own way, FB provided a reason and a chance to die peacefully !

Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies. In law, an heir is a person who is entitled to receive a share of the deceased's (the person who died) property. 

Down Under in New Zealand, Stuff Co NZ reports that a son's battle with charities to claw back a contested inheritance has failed, with a High Court ruling he has no right to the money. According to the report, Neil Palmer, who now lives in Australia, argued that proceeds from some of his late mother's property should have gone to him, not the three charities who were bequeathed the money in her husband's will. Palmer's mother Elsie Burton-Whiting, met fellow octogenarian Eric Burton in 2005. They wed in January 2007 and in December that year Burton bought a house for them. Elsie died only days later. Burton died in March 2012 and, in a will he prepared a month before his death, left his estate to be split evenly among three charities: the Hawke's Bay branches of the Heart Foundation, the RSPCA and Cranford Hospice in Hastings.

Palmer and his wife Heather did not discover that Burton had died until a Christmas card was returned to them last year. Palmer is the executor and beneficiary of his mother's estate and he claimed that any chattels she took with her into the new house should have been part of her estate. He claimed that after his mother's death he had told Burton he could continue to use her furniture and household chattels such as pottery for the rest of his life. Palmer said Burton replied that he would leave everything, including his house and car, to Palmer in his will. By the time Palmer found out about Burton's death all the chattels belonging to Burton and his wife had been sold for $11,542. The house and car sold for about $400,000. When the Palmers found that they were not beneficiaries of Burton's estate, they brought a claim for the house and the car.

Despite being outside the time frame for such a claim, in December a judge granted an extension allowing them to do so. This decision was appealed against in the High Court by the Heart Foundation and the RSPCA. The Palmers believed that that claim was questionable and felt that at least some of the chattels should have been separate property. But in a judgment reached last month, Justice Sarah Katz allowed the appeal, finding against the Palmers. Katz said Palmer never had any rights to his mother's chattels, as they were Burton's, and the Palmers could not reasonably show that Burton owed them for the loan of the chattels. Hawke's Bay RSPCA manager Bruce Wills said the legal action cost thousands of dollars "that we'd much rather had gone to the animals it was intended for, but we do acknowledge the right of people to challenge wills". A Heart Foundation spokeswoman said the charity was pleased with the decision.

Different people – different decisions .... news courtesy : ~ and away from this melee, there is something known as ‘digital inheritance’ – which is the process of handing over (personal) digital assets to (human) beneficiaries. These digital assets include digital estates and the right to use them. Digital assets are (in contrast to physical assets) more dynamic in appearance and fugacity. Data sets that can be inherited can include passwords, instructive memos, digital contracts, digital receipts, pictures, medical information – while some have the policy of deleting an account upon knowledge of their death – only few are thinking of passing it on to their legal heirs for usage

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th Aug 2014

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