Is There Facebook After Death?

The estate and probate attorneys at Spitler Huffman law firm have substantial experience representing clients in estate and probate matters.  Located in Bowling Green and Rossford, Ohio we are dedicated to serving clients in Northwest Ohio including Wood, Henry, Hancock, and Sandusky Counties.  If you live in Bowling Green, Findlay, Perrysburg, Napoleon, Port Clinton, Fremont, Rossford, or other areas in Northwest Ohio and need estate and probate assistance, contact us today.

In an era where “it isn’t official until it’s posted on Facebook,” what happens to our profiles when we die?

With Facebook reporting that it has over 1.7 billion “active” users (or users that have logged in at some point within the last 30 days), about a quarter of the world is on Facebook every month.  With so many users, a few are bound to pass away every so often.

For the planners out there- there are options.  In response to The Inevitable, Facebook has put in place methods for a user to dictate the terms of your account prior to death.

Before Death:

Facebook gives users three options for their accounts after death- 1. Create a “Memorialized” account, 2. Deactivate upon death, or 3. Do nothing.

If you choose a Memorialized account, once Facebook is notified of your death you basically get a page where people can continue to post on a special memorial timeline.  If you choose, you can name a “legacy contact” to administer the page on your behalf, but your legacy will be limited to the memorial page.

If you choose to set your account to deactivate upon death, Facebook simply deactivates your account once it receives a death notice.

If a User Does Nothing:

That just leaves the 90 plus percent of users who have not designated any action for their Facebook account.  If this happens, your family or the fiduciary of your estate may request that your account be deactivated, or may seek a court order to shut down your account.

A Little Planning Goes A Long Way: 

Most of us write our 19 different passwords down on 19 different pieces of paper that we can never find later.  News flash- if you can’t find your passwords, your next of kin won’t be able to either.  As for legal intervention- laws so far have been slow to catch up with the problem of fiduciary access to the online records of a deceased person.  Some states, like Oklahoma and Idaho, have taken steps to authorize fiduciary access to online accounts.  However, if you live elsewhere, maybe it’s time to get more organized and make a plan which includes your digital information.

Though planning for your digital estate may seem trivial in comparison to estate planning for your health or financial future, the large and ever-increasing role of technology in our day to day financial and social lives means digital records may need to be addressed with your estate planner.  Accurate records will help your loved ones efficiently handle your estate.  And that’s something everybody likes.

-Posted by CCI

NOT IN MY FRONT YARD: Private Developer’s Agreements Struck Down As Unconstitutional In Ohio’s 11th District

What Is A Private Developer’s Agreement?

Picture this:  you and your spouse just bought a home on 5 acres in a serene country setting on the far fringes of the city.  After a few months, a private developer buys 80 acres of farmland a half mile down the road from your new house.  The developer puts in water and sewer lines that run past your house to serve the McMansions that will soon house a few hundred of your new neighbors.  A few months later, you get a notice from the county health department ordering you to connect to the new sewer line and pay the developer $20,000 for “your share” of the construction costs.  If you don’t want sewer service then you are on the wrong end of a private developer’s agreement.

Is That Legal?

Sounds illegal right?  Not necessarily.  The longstanding rule in Ohio allows any person who builds a water or sewer utility line to recoup a pro-rated share of their costs from any adjacent property owners along the route that make use of the new line.  In the case of a water line, an adjacent property owner can choose not to connect.  However, in the case of a sewer line, connection is mandatory for public health reasons.

Enacted in 1972, ORC 307.73 allows county commissioners to authorize anyone to build such a line, then mandate reimbursement.  This arrangement has long been common practice in Ohio, and private developers have been keen on cashing in on this arrangement to help subsidize private development.  In the case of a sanitary sewer line, those along the project route must connect for public health reasons.

Under the statute, the developer need only give “constructive” notice to adjacent property owners by filing their approved resolution with the county auditor.  Under this arrangement, it is very unlikely that any affected property owner receive actual notification of a looming project which may affect your substantive legal rights and your wallet.

Recent Ohio Case Overturns Private Developer’s Ability To Obtain Reimbursement

On June 30th, 2016, Ohio’s 11th District Court of Appeals struck down the law on due process grounds as an unconstitutional taking of private property in Bacak v. Trumbull Cty. Bd. Of Commr’s., 2016-Ohio-4737.  The court reasoned that the law failed to give property owners adequate notice and meaningful opportunity to be heard for a multitude of reasons.  The statute leaves no time limit for the filing of constructive notice, no notice or oversight of costs, no ability to object, and no judicial review.  The court also cited the multitude of notice rules that counties must follow when constructing the same type of projects which did not apply to private developers.

TBD on what the future holds for this statute, but it is very likely that at this very moment there are hundreds of these developer’s agreements in place which may put the developer at risk of paying for substantially more of their project than they initially anticipated.  This case will almost undoubtedly be appealed and watched very closely by private citizens, public utilities, county officials, and construction interests throughout the State of Ohio.

The Ohio Supreme Court will likely have to settle the issue once and for all.  The only other time they looked at the statute was in DeMoise v. Dowell, where the Court questioned the constitutionality of the statute on due process grounds, but did not strike it down.  DeMoise, 10 Ohio St.3d 92 (1984).  Until the issue is settled, future construction under this type of agreement should proceed with extreme caution.

Text to the opinion of the appellate court’s decision can be found at the following link:

-Posted by CCI